Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.
Dr. James Vaughn Jr. was born and raised in San Francisco’s, historically black Fillmore District. He’s a proud dad of three sons, James III 23, Jamal 21, and Jabari, 19 years old. Dr. Vaughn graduated from San Jose State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice. After two years of employment with the probation department, he decided that his skills would make more of an impact on teenagers by working in crime prevention versus law enforcement. Dr. Vaughn returned to San Jose State University to pursue his teaching credentials and became a full-time teacher in 1998. He earned his master’s degree in special education at San Jose State University in 2001. Dr. Vaughn moved his family to Tracy in 2003 and was elected to the Tracy Unified School District Board of Trustees in November, 2004. Dr. Vaughn became the first African American president of the Tracy Unified School Board of Trustees during 2007 to eight school year, and he also served as president during 2013 to 2014.
He also co-founded 360 Degrees of Knowledge Mentoring Services Incorporated, a 501(c)(3) since 2003. Most recently, he earned his doctorate degree in organizational leadership at UMass Global University, and he’s currently the principal of courts and community schools at the San Mateo County Office of Education. He’s a transformational leader that exemplifies kindness and emotional intelligence.
Well, I’m excited to have you on the Jali Podcast, Dr. James Vaughn. I am so excited. I’ve known you for many, many years, and it is truly a pleasure to have you join, especially to talk a little bit about your own journey as well as kind of the educational system, which I think there’s a lot of challenges in the educational system, so maybe you can help really kind of unpack some of that for us. I know with you serving on the school boards, your dissertation, all of the work that you’ve done over the years, you are the master. So I am looking forward to kind of digging in. But I would love for you to just maybe start by talking a little bit about how you got where you are and how you even got interested in education.
Dr. James Vaughn: Sure. So I just wanted to thank you for having me this evening. [inaudible 00:03:25] excited to talk about Tracy and Tracy Schools. Definitely something that I’m still excited about, even though I haven’t served on the board and what, five years now. So five years removed from that. But at the same time, I’m definitely a person that’s still interested in our schools here.
Melyssa Barrett: Definitely
Dr. James Vaughn: How I first got started. I moved to Tracy in 2003, and I was here just only for a short period of time, and I saw an article in the paper that Evelyn Tolbert was featured in, and it had her contact information there. So I wanted to get involved with just working my mentoring program here in Tracy. So I reached out to Evelyn, and Evelyn will put you to work for sure. I learned very fast that if you call her, she’s going to put you to work.
So I called Evelyn and we were talking about the mentoring program, and she was like, “Wait, we have a gentleman that’s going to be going off the school board, and we would love that African American representative remain on the board, so I think this could be something that you may be interested in.” And it just took off from there. And she put me in touch with all the right people, even my campaign manager back then, and a member of the teacher’s union. And next thing you know, I’m marching in the 4th of July parade, and it just took off right away and my campaign was started. It was just a beautiful thing, and I just thank Evelyn to this day for encouraging me to get involved.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. And that’s always a challenge too, right? Because people don’t think that they can just run or get involved like that, so that’s awesome.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes, and I never run for anything, not in high school, elementary. I had never been in any office in my whole life, so it was definitely something brand, brand new and I just stepped out on faith. And I just had a very, very good team of people that helped me during my first campaign and just got a lot of support from so many different people here. It was just really, really great to get that kind of support my first time out.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and you were already teaching at this point, right?
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes. I was already a teacher. I became a teacher in 1998, so headed towards the end of my career now. This is my 25th year in education.
Melyssa Barrett: Wow, fantastic.
Dr. James Vaughn: My main district that I was a part of was Pleasanton Unified School District. I worked at Amador Valley High. I taught there for 10 years. So the majority of my career I was in Pleasanton, and that was my foundation of getting into special education. So I was just very fortunate to be a part of a good school district that taught me how to work hard, and it just led to so many things. Actually, that connection really helped me on the school board because one thing that was hot topic in Tracy back then was these different ballot measures that they had where there was a trade-off where these developers wanted to get these housing units in exchange for building or repairing our schools.
So it was a lot of people, it was a measure A back then, and people wanted slow growth here in Tracy. So I was a proponent of slow growth, and my school district in Pleasanton had just passed a school bond where the taxpayers had paid. So I had some experience. I was actually in the new building in Pleasanton, and I brought that idea, that was one of the things during the campaign, there was the school district and the superintendent were in this developer deal, and the voters overwhelmingly voted that down. And once I got onto the board, Dr. Franco liked my idea of moving forward with a bond measure, and that was our first bond measure that we had here in Tracy measure E. And that idea really actually came from my experience in Pleasanton.
Once I brought the idea, and that was one of my platforms during my campaign, then Dr. Franco took it from there. I really garnered the support of the whole community here in Tracy, and we were able to bring together the community. Tracy High wanted a new building, so the Dr. James Franco building, that was what they needed. And West High needed a football field. So people probably don’t know that when I first got on the school board, west High did not have a football field. West used to have to graduate off Tracy High’s football field, and I know people probably can’t imagine that now, but having to graduate off your rivals football field. So yeah, so that first ballot measure led to all those buildings and the new football field at Tracy High, because there was some other matching grants that we were able to get with that money.
Just a great team of people. Denise Wakefield was part of our facilities team back then, and she knew how to get all these state matching grants, and it led to West getting their football field, their theater building and their swimming pool. And then it led to all the other buildings that have been redone. Southwest Park School was rebuilt from those bond measures. And also the students of Tracy will benefit probably the next 50, 60 years from those buildings being built and really help to garner the support because we really needed the help of the voters to get those passed. So big kudos to Dr. Franco from leading that charge back then. So yeah.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. He is a legend.
Dr. James Vaughn: Definitely. Definitely for good reason.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and it’s so interesting to me that there every city seems to have, and every district seems to have their own sets of challenges, especially in getting things done. So it’s wonderful to see things get rebursed here because that particular school, it had some real challenges, so to really be able to rebuild was phenomenal.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: So let me ask you a loaded question. Just go off to the left here for a minute, or is it the right, anyway, and talk a little bit about just safety in the schools.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: Because you working in the schools and being in education for so long, obviously we’ve seen so many challenges with gun violence and all of those things. Do you think there’s something that we could be doing at a local level?
Dr. James Vaughn: Well, is really just partnering with local law enforcement, having good procedures in place. I’m currently a principal for an elementary school in Oakland, California. We don’t have police officers on our campuses. However, we do have many protocols in place of when to call the police and when not to call the police. So it’s just really just being vigilant, letting kids know, “Hey, please let me know if you see something or if you hear something.” And really just developing the student voice on your campus is so important because kids know a lot of information before the adults do. So just really building those kind of connections with the kids where they feel safe giving us information. So I really just try to explain the kids giving information if you observe something, that’s not snitching, because the kids throw that word around so much where you want them to be comfortable giving information to adults.
So on many different investigations that I do, and many times there’s not a weapon involved. I do reiterate the students like, “Hey, you’re not snitching. You’re just giving an observation. You saw something and you’re reporting it, not snitching on anyone.” So I think just really building those connections with the students to get information helps out a lot. We definitely have a lot of policies where we keep the school locked up during the daytime. Where I’m at we have a doorbell in the front of the school, which has a camera, so we can see who’s coming in, and we have to let them into the school. So that helps out a lot too.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well, that’s good. Yeah, I think keeping kids safe is so… We got to make sure we figure that out.
Dr. James Vaughn: And it is just really just not ever getting too comfortable. Me as the administrator on the campus, every day I’m on top of it and making sure that I’m taking care of business. But then also since I am in the East Bay, making sure that I’m not bringing problems to my school. Really treating everybody with kindness and respect when they come through the door. If a parent has an issue where they feel their child is bullied, I always make sure I drop whatever I’m doing and listen to whatever their concern is. So it’s just really just we as school officials or teachers or staff, just really treating everybody with respect. And just everyone that we come in contact with, just treating them with kindness and respect. And I feel that goes a long way to keeping the school safe also.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, I think that’s all anybody wants. The topics on diversity, equity, and inclusion, that’s really all we’re talking about is let’s have equality of respect.
Dr. James Vaughn: Definitely.
Melyssa Barrett: We were talking a little bit about your dissertation, and congratulations by the way, Dr. Vaughn-
Dr. James Vaughn: Thank you.
Melyssa Barrett: … because I know you have worked on your doctorate, and I’m excited that you were able to complete your dissertation, and defend it and so I would love to hear a little bit more about it if you want to share.
Dr. James Vaughn: Sure. Hopefully I don’t put you to sleep, but my topic was on team dynamics, and it was through the eyes of a school board president. I use this model as Parker’s model of the 12 characteristics of effective teams, but I was able to narrow it down to five characteristics because 12 would’ve been too long of an interview when I had to interview my subjects. And Kelly Lewis, former school board president in Tracy, he was on a expert panel of former school board members, and he helped me narrow that 12 down to five. So it was three people, including Kelly. He helped me out a lot to get that 12 characteristics down to five.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it.
Dr. James Vaughn: So one reoccurring theme that kept coming up was listening. So when school board teams are together, just really learn to listen to each other, even if you don’t agree with the person, just being able to listen and to have civil disagreement, because the whole community is usually watching school board meetings nowadays because they are available on Zoom.
People don’t have to come in person, and everyone’s watching students watching, parents are watching, staff, teachers, everybody’s watching. And if the school board isn’t getting along a lot of those things, it funnels down to the students. That negative behavior of people treating each other rude and things like that, it can definitely affect the students. So I was able to interview five different school board members from up and down the coast of California, and some really good ones. Actually two African American women from Southern California really gave me some great insight on how to really do retreats with the school board members can do retreats together to discuss real topics and have those tough conversations outside of the school board meeting, I think is such a valuable thing because there are topics that need to be discussed these days, like implicit bias, critical race theory is something that needs to be discussed, whether it’s school district adopts it or not, it should at least be discussed to see exactly what does critical race theory entail and how it can affect the school district.
So it’s just so many different topics that effective school boards discuss during their retreats. Now, we used to do our retreats as Trace Unified, but when we had budget cuts back around ’08, ’09, that was something that went away because we cut so many things away from the classroom that we felt we needed to take a cut to. So that was something that we cut was our board retreat because it did cost money, but it was something valuable that we did cut because it was good to get to know people out for myself when I was a young board member to get to know my fellow board members outside of the board meetings. So that was one thing that came up just about listening, civil disagreement, just being respectful of others. And I would say just a lot of the information that I was able to get from my different subjects, just all, a lot of it came back to being a good listener.
And even me as a school administrator, I listen a lot. I do a lot of listening and a lot of preparation. So one of the things that was recommended was for school board members to participate in a lot of the professional developments that are offered for school board members. I know I went through it back in like ’05, ’06, somewhere back there. I went through the masters of governance program that the California School Board Association, they sponsor it, and it’s like six different modules that you have to take to finish that certification. And it was really helpful because once I started going through the trainings, I was like, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been doing so many things that were wrong, and my school board members were still putting up with me.” Even though I was doing things that were not recommended by the California School Board Association. People on my board still had a lot of patience with me, but once I went through the training, it made me a stronger board member.
I started really learning the ropes then and learning what to do and what not to do, and really how to get some of my own passions to get them passed for our kids. So one of the women that I interviewed, she said that it was one initiative that she really wanted to pass, and she was a school board member for over 20 years, but it took her six years just to massage the board to get her own initiative passed. So things don’t happen overnight all the time. However, you can get whatever your passion is done by listening to others and maybe backing them up on one of their passions, and then when’s your turn to come around where I’m fighting for some of them for the African American kids.
Then I have open ears because I’ve been listening to my fellow board members and also helping them get some of their things that they wanted passed, and when was my turn, they were open to it, Like really when I wanted to have the College Bound come here to Tracy with Dr. Darlene Willis. That was a huge thing. And that did take about four to five years before we brought her on with a full program. So she first started coming to Tracy, like ’08, ’09. Then by 2014, we had a full program that was open to all three high schools. So it did take some time. And so board member, it does take some patience. You might have a passion and you might have an initiative that you think is important, but you have to know that if it’s important to you, you’re going to be consistent and vigilant and you’re going to keep fighting for it, and the time will come.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back. What other advice can you give us with having you having served on the school boards, and I think I shared this with you earlier, whether I’m going to a city council meeting or a school board or something, there is this divisiveness really in any sitting. So I love the fact that you’re talking about team teams because when I think of a board of directors or city council or whatever, they’re supposed to be a team. But it’s interesting because I think a lot of times you see there are people in the roles, and they’re not acting like they’re a team. They are pitted one against the other.
Dr. James Vaughn: And we do see that a lot, whether it’s city council or school board where people bring it to the open. They come out and they, they’re disagreeing in the public in front of the people that we’re supposed to be working for. We’re working for the people. They’re the ones that put us in office. And it does take time to develop those relationships. And it’s really just learning to civilly disagree with someone. And there’s different kinds of conflict. This is what I learned through my study. There’s cognitive conflict that is more positive. “Hey, we don’t have to agree, but at least I’m listening to you and we can have a healthy debate on whatever topic it is.” But then there’s the other kind of negative conflict, and that kind of conflict is where you’re attacking someone. You’re sitting there and you’re not listening to understand.
You’re listening to respond, and you’re just waiting. You’ll sit the whole meeting, and you just can’t wait for that person that you don’t like to say that thing that you want to oppose, and you’re waiting for them to say something that you don’t like. And then now you have your response. And we really want to get away from that, that kind of governance in general because it doesn’t help the people. And then when we’re talking about the school district, it doesn’t help the students. And many times, we’re not setting a good example when we’re in the public and we’re not setting that good example for the students. So it definitely takes making sure our public officials are getting that professional development when they’re onboarding. So that was one of the things I learned through my study is whether it’s the school district or the city council, there needs to be some onboarding development there where a person that’s brand new within a certain amount of time, they should be sent to training.
This is some of the information that I got from the subjects that I interviewed. Some of the different districts did have onboarding. Like those women that I mentioned from Southern California, they had onboarding. And after a person was on, I think by six months, they had to finish certain trainings that they had to go through to just help them gain the knowledge. Because sometimes a person will get defensive if they don’t have knowledge of what’s going on, if they felt like they’re put on the spot, if they’re asked a question and they didn’t do the preparation for whatever meeting. And then it does, it can cause a negative reaction.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, those are great things for any team. Yes. As we talk about development, listening. Listening, listening, listening. No, I think we need more of that, for sure. So then and now that you’re at your school in Oakland, are there other best practices you may have uncovered in terms of just your administration of a school? I mean, I think sometimes it’s even challenging to see from a representation and diversity standpoint to see teachers, people of color, women, kind of all of those things. So how are you challenged with… I know Oakland is obviously full of students of color. How do you deal with diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to the schools and the school boards?
Dr. James Vaughn: Well, in Oakland, I really haven’t dealt with the school board that much, just in my role as principal. However, one thing that is effective at my campus to really help with equity is really developing that student voice on the campus. So there was one situation when I first got to the school, we didn’t really have, well, what can I say, a policy for students that had committed an infraction. So many times we had kids sitting on the bench for a whole lunch, and since it’s an elementary school, these kids do need to run some of their energy out. And it was punitive. And it impacted my noon supervisors too, because they had to watch all the kids on the yard. So it was hard for them to watch all the kids and watch the kids that were supposed to be sitting on the bench. So many times, those kids knew that no one could really monitor them the way that they needed to be.
So there was no accountability. So you had these kids that had done these infractions, other kids had witnessed them do these infractions, and now they’re playing with everybody else. So then the kids that were good, they’re like, “Well, there’s no penalty for doing this behavior, so I’m just going to do whatever too.” So what we developed was called a restorative room. So after the students would eat, then I have a afterschool program. They actually start midday called Safe Passages. Safe Passages, and the school, we partnered to create this restorative room. So Safe Passages would get the kids after they had eaten and bring them back to the restorative room. So now they had to be accountable. They can’t just be on the yard running free. However, when we get them to the restorative room, we would have them do reflective papers, do a restorative circle and really talk about what happened.
So this was their time to really talk about what happened with this infraction and to really get them to talk about it. And then we start having less repeat offenders. Because for one, they didn’t want to lose their lunch. Now in the restorative room, now we have you. We’re only going to keep you for maybe 10, 15 minutes, but we have you, you’re going to serve, and now we’re teaching you to talk through whatever your issue is. And with so many students that have social emotional issues, especially since the COVID school closures, it’s so important for kids to learn to express themselves in the appropriate way. So this definitely has been just a really, really good program. We started seeing less and less kids with the… Well, we didn’t see the recidivism where we had the kids that are frequently coming in now, they were dealing with whatever the issue they had and realized their role in it, and then the next time they made a better decision.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s phenomenal. Yeah, I love it. And quite frankly, there’s probably a lot of corporations that could use a restorative room for some of their employees.
Dr. James Vaughn: Seriously.
Melyssa Barrett: Seriously, there is a lot we can learn from all walks and all industries. So I love that idea of having a restorative room. I might need one for my house
Dr. James Vaughn: Right. Step all into the restorative room.
Melyssa Barrett: Right, exactly.
Dr. James Vaughn: Let’s talk this out.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. So then I did want to make sure that we gave a shout out to your fraternity.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes. Kappa Alpha Psi. Yes I pledged-
Melyssa Barrett: You got the riddle. I knew you representing today.
Dr. James Vaughn: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. Yes. So I pledged at San Jose State University Delta Road chapter. So I pledged undergrad. Now I’m part of Berkeley alumni, so I’ve been partnering with Berkeley alumni with the school that I’m at, and we’re starting some programs there. So it’s been definitely a great experience to partner with Kappa in the Bay Area now, and to have them come in as role models for our kids at our school, so is been really, really good. A good program that they’re running is called Raising Youth Resilience through the Berkeley Alumni chapter, and they’re helping us with raising our attendance. So that program is run by brother John Norman and John, his program actually goes out to get the kids from home.
Melyssa Barrett: Oh, wow.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yeah, because it’s too much to ask our teachers to do home visits and things these days. So that mentoring program, they have the transportation, and many times, sometimes just the students know that someone cares that much to come pick them up from home can make a huge difference. Like I’m saying, so many kids are suffering from anxiety and depression these days. It’s really serious, especially since the pandemic and they need that extra push. It’s not how we were raised, but I really can’t put all my same values, how we were raised on today’s kids, and because they’re dealing with a lot of things. I never had to deal with the pandemic when I was coming, so it was just totally different.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and it’s so interesting because I think a lot of schools probably don’t realize how many resources they might be able to tap into when you talk about some of the organizations that are providing services and would love to partner with schools to showcase their particular outreach and programs to really help with the kids. Yeah, so shout out Kappa Alpha Psi Berkeley alumni chapter.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yeah, definitely.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it.
Dr. James Vaughn: And during Christmas time, the Sigma Gamma Rhos, they were able to donate for our coat drive, and they donated brand new coats from Macy’s, the kids. So it was really, really nice. The families were so happy. We actually threw an event for, it was a toy and coat drive and just real nice because the kids were wearing the coats the next day. They didn’t wait till Christmas. These families, they need the coats right now. So it was just great to partner with different organizations.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. That’s fantastic. So now before I let you go, because I know we’ve touched on the Covid closures, and you talked a little bit about the anxiety and some of the challenges that the kids have, which I know I’ve seen just some of the communication challenges. In terms of the trends for education, because it really was a complete change in education for at least a couple of years. What kind of a impacts are you seeing in the schools and what can people do? I just did a podcast on mental health, and so I had Hallaniyah Lima talked a lot about some of the tips and the symptoms and things that you can identify. But from an educational standpoint, are you seeing things that are challenging, more challenging than they were based on that whole shift in COVID closure? Because for me personally, I feel like the two years, I can’t even really account for them. Like when people say how long has such and such, it’s almost like the kids grew two years and you didn’t even notice. They just are like, “Whoa, what happened?”
Dr. James Vaughn: So one thing that we see the socialization that students would normally have received during preschool or TK or kindergarten, the students that missed that, they’re like second, third grade now, and you definitely see the difference. My second, third grade recess, I had to be outside because they’re definitely a rambunctious group because they didn’t have that time to enjoy preschool and kindergarten. They missed miss some of that time. So just really just paying attention. And many of the students were being raised on YouTube during that time. Many the parents, parents realized that it is a very difficult job to educate our students and just so many students, were all constantly on their computers on YouTube. And YouTube, if you know about YouTube you can go down a rabbit hole where you may go on there looking for one video, even as an adult, and the next thing you’re looking at Jug Knights thing or something, and I’m like,” was looking up how to fix my car. Why am I watching this Jug Knight episode or something? So-
Melyssa Barrett: And then two hours later.
Dr. James Vaughn: That’s right. Two hours later now I’m just watch a Animal Planet video. You know, just go down this rabbit hole. And I admit sometimes many of our young students have been exposed to some things, because some adult content on YouTube. There’s lots of adult content, and they have this whole dark part of YouTube for that student that the six year olds, they even know about it and they have, “Minnie Mouse has anxiety, she wants to kill herself,” and all these kinds of really dark cartoons that I didn’t know about it until the kids start telling me about it. I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” The kids are being exposed to all these bad things on YouTube. And the parents may not even be aware that they’re watching it because many times the parents, the kid may be into gaming, so they start off watching a gaming video.
Then the next thing you know, like I’m saying, they go down that rabbit hole and now they’re watching something inappropriate that they probably shouldn’t have been watching. So that’s one thing I noticed with a lot of kids that like I was saying, I have six year olds talking about killing themselves nowadays and talking about a lot of adult content and things because of some of the things that they’re being exposed to online. That’s one thing that I’ve seen a lot after the pandemic. So many kids have been exposed to a lot of adult content. Our counselors are very important at our school to really work with our students to talk out many of these issues that they’ve had, and just a lot of kids seeing things that they shouldn’t see online. So I would just recommend parents to really pay attention, even if they start on a gaming video and you leave the room and think everything’s okay, maybe check back in another 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Just keep checking back in to see what the kids are actually watching.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, that’s a great point. Definitely a great point. Screen time is a big deal these days, and there’s just so much when it comes to education. And I do, I definitely want to say teachers, they are so important, so critical, and clearly, clearly we don’t appreciate them enough. I just want to give a major shout out to all the teachers, especially the ones that had to go through the pandemic and the shift and all of those things. Because I know that was a significant shift in your teaching process, and I think a lot of parents really started to understand you know what? This is challenging. Even my own kids. It’s challenging. So yes, definitely shout out and big props to our teachers. Is there anything that we can do when we think about schools today, the education of our kids? And I spend a lot of time talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we kind of touched a little bit on that, but are there other things we could do to even pull in teachers? Recruiting, maybe? Are you guys doing anything exciting there?
Dr. James Vaughn: Yeah, I think recruitment of African American teachers, that’s something that I would love to do and to really get out there. I know Dr. Franco was big on that. Him and Jody. Jodi Wyrick. Oh man, I’ve heard so many great stories. Because they will go together on these recruitment trips and to recruit black… They went to Illinois. I mean, it’s just so many. These are things that happened before I was even on the board. So Tracy, I’m used to have a good recruitment of black teachers and some black teachers that I did meet here they were recruited by Dr. Franco, and they came here with signing bonuses and different ways to attract African-American teachers here to Tracy.
Melyssa Barrett: Interesting.
Dr. James Vaughn: And Oakland, same deal. We really are one to attract more African-Americans to the field because our students need to see people that look like them, whether it’s in the teacher or administrator or counselor, it’s a need. I know when I was going through the teaching credentialing program, it was on myself and my FRA brother, Sean. We were the only ones in the program back then. And then Javette works in Tracy too, right now, actually. She came in after us, but she was the only one then after I was nearly done with the program. So we definitely have to talk up the profession. Many times people talk down on the teaching profession where people say, “Oh, they don’t make any money. Oh, it’s this. Oh, it’s that.” But it is, the salaries have improved over the years, and it is a rewarding career, and you get great vacation time. So it’s just so many good aspects of teaching. My family, I come from a family of educators. My grandfather’s siblings were educators. I was very popular down there as an administrator.
And then my aunt, Beatrice Spears is from Vacaville. She was a teacher. And where did Dr. Franco come from? Vacaville before Dr. Franco worked at Tracy High as the principal he started off in Vacaville, and him and my aunt Beatrice Spears were on the same faculty. There’s a picture out there somewhere that my cousins have of Dr. Franco and my great aunt in the same picture on the same faculty in Vacaville. So Dr. Franco and I had a lot of different connections knowing that he worked with my great aunt was so cool.
Melyssa Barrett: It’s a small world, small world.
Dr. James Vaughn: Small world. Small world.
Melyssa Barrett: But to your point, if we just got to know each other, we would start to realize how connected we truly are.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes, indeed. I think part of coming out of slavery and just so many things we could look at COINTELPRO, just I feel like it was just a negative strategy against our people to talk down on the education profession, because I don’t really hear a lot of other cultures talk down on it like that. But I know it’s the negative aspects of teaching within the black community. And I think we have to change that narrative to really start telling… We have to start looking like 100 years forward as black people to plan out our coming generations. And I would say over the next 100 years, for us to really be liberated as a people, we’re going to need some black educators, a lot of black educators to get in there and liberate our students. Our schools will remain as the pipeline to prison. We don’t want to see that.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, we definitely don’t.
Dr. James Vaughn: Right.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, I truly appreciate this conversation because I feel like we’re just getting started. There’s so much right to talk about, and so you know you’re welcome to come back anytime.
Dr. James Vaughn: I’ll be back. Oh, back to Jali, the podcast, because your husband, Peter, he came out to my school in Pleasanton a couple times, I think twice in Frederick Douglas that I will never forget. And he was so amazing. The kids loved him. It is so difficult. I was so impressed with Peter doing that one man show because it is so hard when you’re on stage by yourself. And to memorize all those things by Frederick Douglas, the way that he did was so awesome. And anytime I asked Peter to do something, he was there. And I just remember-
Melyssa Barrett: Oh, he won that.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes. Yeah, I was just remember him coming out and performing and doing such an amazing job and how everybody loved him at our school. So I would love to come back. Like I said, I love paying it forward. I’ll never forget what people have done for me in my career. I would never forget the amazing job Peter always did with our students.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. The Jali himself. He was a character for sure.
Dr. James Vaughn: Definitely.
Melyssa Barrett: And just to be able to kids’ attention for a period of time is a challenge. But I don’t know. He had a way of doing that. So I appreciate that. And certainly the Jali Podcast is all kind of a head nod to him. So I appreciate that story because it’s amazing to see how the things that you do create memories and legacies for… He used to have people, students run up to him years later and be like, “Oh my gosh, you came to my school in the sixth grade.” And I was like… And I don’t remember my sixth grade, but even when I was in high school, I probably didn’t remember sixth grade. So I just appreciate educators that are creative in that way to bring in oral tradition or other types of opportunities for people to learn in different ways, which is fantastic.
Dr. James Vaughn: Definitely.
Melyssa Barrett: So I just want to say thank you so much for all you do, both in your current profession as an administrator and a principal, a teacher, and certainly as a kappa as well out in the community, just giving you definitely gratitude for all the work that you’re doing as a school board member and all of the things that you’ve done. So really appreciate you coming on and sharing with us your perspective.
Dr. James Vaughn: Yes, and thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, it’s been wonderful. So come on back and we’ll talk about critical race theory or something next.
Dr. James Vaughn: For sure.
Melyssa Barrett: All right, sounds good.
Dr. James Vaughn: All right.
Melyssa Barrett: Thank you so much.
Dr. James Vaughn: All right, thank you.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.