Jackson, MS

Our Work in Jackson

Strengthening Transformational Learning

Changing the Narrative

Supporting Community Leadership

IDEA is Rooted in Jackson, Mississippi

Our connection and relationship to Jackson comes from a place of lifelong and years-long experiences of being Jackson residents and national comrades.

We see Jackson as one of the most important cities in the United States for the work of mobilizing education centered in racial equity and community justice. As a staff, we have been lucky enough to spend the entire existence of our organizational life in relationship to people and work on the ground in the state of Mississippi.

Throughout a history of sordid racial terror and interference with the rights of its citizens to take part in democracy, Mississippi has represented some of the nation’s most influential liberatory and radical action towards humanization and racial justice through community organizing and the mobilization of community efforts to push for human rights and dignity.

IDEA seeks to carry on and contribute to the radical legacy of organizing in Jackson centered in the needs, hopes, and dreams of the community to bring quality, equitable educational opportunities to life.

Our ongoing work is to collaborate with district, local, and national partners towards:

Strengthening Transformational Learning

Our Focus: to improve the quality and access of transformational learning practices in Jackson through the implementation of community schools, restorative justice, and a remodeled approach to alternative education.

Supporting Community Leadership

Our Focus: to engage in public awareness, community leadership, and education efforts to support and sustain positive changes for the future of public education in Jackson.

Changing the Narrative

Our Focus: to change the narrative surrounding education in Jackson and showcase the vibrancy of ongoing efforts to transform the Jackson school district.

Active Jackson Programming

Our Focus: our work takes many forms, often emerging out of community needs that surface in the path forward for equitable and high-quality education for all.

Strengthening Transformational Learning

Working Across 3 Key Areas

IDEA collaborates in Mississippi and across the nation to strengthen transformational learning practices in Jackson across three key areas:

Implementing Community Schools

Implementing Restorative Justice Practices

Remodeling Alternative Education


“Every student should have access to schools with the resources, opportunities, and supports that make academic success possible and that create strong ties among families, students, schools, and communities. Doing so will provide more equitable opportunities and prepare students for success in life and as citizens. That’s what community schools offer. They are a powerful, evidence-based strategy for creating excellent schools for students, regardless of their race, family income level, or the ZIP Code in which they live.” – Partnership for the Future of Learning

What are Community Schools?

Community Schools are public schools that partner with families and community organizations to provide each and every student with the resources, opportunities, and support that make success possible and that create strong ties among families, students, schools, and community. Like every good school, community schools must be built on a foundation of powerful teaching that includes challenging academic content and supports students’ mastery of 21st century skills and competencies


What makes community schools unique is the combination of four key pillars (or features) that together create the conditions necessary for students to thrive. The pillars are: 


  1. Integrated student supports
  2. Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities
  3. Active family and community engagement
  4. Collaborative leadership and practices.

“A community school is a public school – the hub of its neighborhood, uniting families, educators, and community partners to provide all students with top-quality academics, enrichment, health and social services, and opportunities to succeed in school and in life.” Coalition for Community Schools

Where Things Stand in Jackson:

There is significant development underway for the implementation of Community Schools in Jackson Public Schools. As a partner in the #OurJPS Coalition, IDEA is working in collaboration with Jackson Public SchoolsWorking Together JacksonThe Center for Popular Democracy, and the National Education Association towards the implementation of Community Schools in JPS.

To connect with us in this collaborative effort, please reach out at info@democraticeducation.org


More Information on Community Schools:

Community Schools Playbook
 – a practical guide to advancing Community Schools strategies produced by the Partnership for the Future of Learning

Frequently Asked Questions About Community Schools – people have lots of questions about community schools. Here are responses to some of the most common with links to helpful resources from Coalition for Community Schools

On the Rise: Cincinnati’s Community Learning Centers – a film series that takes viewers inside Community Learning Centers, Cincinnati’s Community Schools


“Restorative practices in schools are based on restorative justice principles instead of punishment. They aim first to build classroom communities that are supported by clear agreements, authentic communication, and specific tools to bring issues and conflicts forward in a helpful way. They provide specific pathways to repair harms by bringing together those who are affected by misbehavior in a dialogue to address concerns, achieve understanding, and come to agreement about setting things right. In addition to serving the cause of fairness and justice, restorative approaches make safer schools and contribute to social and emotional learning.” – Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice (RJ) practices (also referred to as Transformational Justice practices) invite a fundamental shift in the way we think about and do justice, from punishing individuals after wrongdoing to repairing harm and preventing its reoccurrence.

Restorative justice practices have their roots in indigenous cultures, the Maori and the Dine to name two often credited. Over the last 15 years, Restorative Justice models have been developed for Juvenile Drug Courts, in harm reduction communities, within many University conduct systems, and within schools and learning communities that seek positive ways to end the school-to-prison pipeline and punitive systems.

There is no one clear set of practices, but there are a variety of hiqh-quality resources and approaches to Restorative Justice that can be implemented in districts and schools, large and small.

“A restorative and accountable approach to discipline and support begins with a commonly agreed upon code of conduct describing a safe and respectful school culture; outlines explicit student expectations, rights and responsibilities; and calls for mutual accountability among all adults to support students’ academic, social and emotional development. When students violate this code of conduct, disciplinary consequences and interventions require students to own the problem, reflect on the impact of their behavior on themselves and others, and understand why the behavior was unacceptable or unskillful.” “Restoring Justice” via Learning for Justice

Where Things Stand in Jackson:

With our partner Southern Poverty Law Center, we have coordinated several meetings on restorative practices with community leaders from Jackson and Hinds County, with a commitment to initiate a series of circles discussing restorative practices in schools and court systems. These circles keep the work moving while also providing an experience of the Circle itself, the foundational structure of restorative justice practices.

More Information on Restorative Justice:

Discipline With Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment – from YES! Magazine, this article shares the efforts in Oakland, CA lead by Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) to implement restorative practices in schools.

Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Community Circle – An Oakland school brings in restorative justice, beginning with a community circle. Youth and teachers speak to how it’s gone (video).

5 Reasons Implementation of Restorative Practices Fails in Schools – a good look at key aspects needed to successfully bring RJ into schools.

Restorative Justice Overview – a brief one page overview produced by IDEA.


What is Alternative Education?

Alternative education commonly refers to schools and programs designed for students who are not fully supported in traditional settings in conventional schools. However, IDEA understands that the conventional school model actually works very different for a lot of students and we must resist blaming the student. IDEA envisions all schools becoming sites for culturally relevant, engaging, and equity-driven education. And, we acknowledge the reality and need for alternative schools that are transformative for students who have been wounded by their educational experiences, pushed out or dropped out of their assigned schools, and need an affirming space to heal and grow.  

Where Things Stand in Jackson:

We are in dialogue with district staff and the broad community to support efforts to move alternative education in JPS more towards restoration, healing, and community building rather than expulsion and strict discipline.

More Information on Alternative Education:

Nuestra Escuela – provides educational services to youth and adults out of school who never completed their studies at higher level. It enrolls students who are typically between ages 13 and 22, and maintains strong connections with the students’ families. The vast majority of students have had major academic or life challenges.

Urban Academy Laboratory High School – takes an alternative approach to education by utilizing inquiry-based teaching, performance assessments, and multi-aged classrooms; recognizes and uses the city (NYC) as the classroom; and takes an explicit stand in saying “no” to high-stakes tests.

Changing the Narrative

What we mean by “Change the Narrative”

Changing the Narrative is not only raising awareness or bringing attention to an issue, but ultimately it’s helping to increase the public’s understanding of how an issue presently functions; the systemic and social conditions that created it; and what solutions are available to resolve it; and, based on that increased understanding, moving people to action. To increase understanding, we have to know the current thinking. – adapted from PFL’s Changing the Narrative on Public Education Toolkit

The last few years of circumstances surrounding the Jackson school district have brought IDEA into working more intently alongside local, state, and national collaborators to protect public education for the Jackson community. As changes take root in Jackson, it is crucial to raise up the stories of change, and the powerful and positive work that is happening.

IDEA Contributes to Changing the Narrative in Jackson, MS by:

  • Holding storytelling events and trainings with the community
  • Coordinating leadership development with parents and the broad community to gain skills in telling and disseminating their own stories
  • Arranging visits and trainings from filmmakers and storytelling experts
  • Amplifying, documenting, and tracking local stories through media

Some Examples of Changing The Narrative in Action:

  • Changing the Narrative on Public Education Toolkit – a communications toolkit designed to help advocates talk more effectively about the current needs and future possibilities of public education.
  • Mississippi Rising – the future of this country is bound to the future of Mississippi. This story provides a glimpse of the systemic and generational impacts of racism and how vital investment in education is to all residents —  and to the entire state’s economy.
  • Kings and Queens – an exploration of inequity and a view into resilient communities on the south side of Chicago.
  • Springboard to Opportunities – a Radically Resident-Driven organization based out of Jackson who works to connect families living in affordable housing with resources and programs that help them advance themselves in school, work and life.
  • #JPSStayingStrong – For about 30 days in 2020, IDEA celebrated and shared stories from Jackson Public Schools students, parents, staff, alumni and more as they responded to this question: “What makes you JPS Proud?

Supporting Community Leadership

Following the “Heartwork” Visions of Local Community

IDEA believes that for any of our work to be meaningful, honest, respectful, highly impactful, and well informed it must be shaped by the communities we serve alongside. We believe deeply that social and learning environments can only be truly and equitably made better by leaning into and following the natural gifts, talents, and wisdom of the communities with which we are fortunate enough to live in and be invited into.

Strategies to remove barriers and overcome struggles are inherently deep in the DNA of many communities in Mississippi. Ella Baker once said that “strong people don’t need strong leaders”. We know that we serve alongside strong people and therefore the leadership that is present is both shared and organic. Our blueprint for change is to follow the “heartwork” visions laid out to us by our neighbors’ voices. We were founded with the intent of uplifting and connecting critical people, places, and work to each other. Supporting and learning from community leadership has and will continue to be step one in our every approach to advocacy and the pursuit of an antiracist world for us all.

Active Programming

Teacher Support Circles

The Mississippi Teacher Support Circle supports an ongoing series of meetings led by restorative facilitators that provide a safe space for teachers to share their experiences, dialogue, and find healing together as they do the important work of educating the youth of Mississippi. Teachers from all over Mississippi are welcome at circle meetings, which take place over multiple sessions each semester.

JPS Youth Voice & Engagement Project

IDEA is leading a project in cooperation with Jackson Public Schools to engage youth in action research in their communities. A select number of high school students will lead the way in researching the issues they care about, publishing information about these issues, and making action plans to be showcased to a wider Jackson audience.

Parent Support & Engagement

In partnership with Our JPS, IDEA hosts an ongoing series of meetings with Jackson Public Schools parents to discuss their experiences, hopes, and dreams for the school district, and engages parents in various leadership trainings and to support direct involvement with the school district.

Community Restorative Justice Circles

In partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center, IDEA hosts series of restorative circles for key stakeholders in the Jackson Public Schools community, including students, parents, educators, and other community members. These circles are meant to build community amongst participants, inform the work of restorative justice in Jackson, and to bring awareness to restorative justice practices for all participants.

Ongoing Collaboration with JPS and OurJPS

In ongoing partnership with Jackson Public Schools and OurJPS, IDEA supports learning, facilitation, and other work surrounding the community schools projects launching in Jackson.

Input and Collaboration

There are many ongoing efforts to bring quality, equitable educational opportunities to life in Jackson. If you are part of or know of such efforts, we invite you to share about them with us so we can engage with you in solidarity and look for opportunities to collaborate.

Please reach out to info@democraticeducation.org to let us know how you would like to stay connected, lift up any resources you think we should be aware of, and indicate ways in which you think we might be able to collaborate.

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