(BALTIMORE – July 27, 2022) – When asked to tell us about herself, Salimah Jasani said this:
“If you ask me who I am, I’ll tell you that I am a special educator at heart. I am a member of the disability community. I also grew up with many family members with disabilities, including a Deaf aunt and uncle and two cousins with cerebral palsy who both died when I was young. I chose to become a special education teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools because of my commitment to making sure that students with disabilities have access to opportunities that allow them to thrive in school and in life. I still work closely with students with disabilities and their families.
Another important part of my identity is that I was born in India and lived in many places before I chose Baltimore City as my home in 2014. Baltimore has a rapidly growing immigrant population. I have taught both immigrant students and students who were born and raised in Baltimore. Something my students discovered in my classroom is that we all have more in common than we think, and we can build a better world when we work together. This is one of the reasons that I co-founded a podcast called Point of Hue that amplifies women of color who are doing great work in Baltimore. The podcast is co-hosted by myself (an Indian woman), a Black woman, and a Latina woman. We often talk about how our communities can lift each other up.
In the Summer of 2021, I got a call from a close friend – a Black woman who was born and raised in Baltimore – who asked me to apply to be appointed to the School Board. She said that we need someone with special education expertise and lived experience as an immigrant to serve on the Board. I decided to apply. I was moved forward to the community panel, which is made up of groups including parents, educators, administrators, and community members. I got the highest number of votes from the community panel in the first round of voting. I was then moved forward to an interview with the Mayor. There were three vacancies at the time, and three candidates interviewed with the Mayor. Ultimately, he decided to appoint only one of us, and I was not appointed. There are still two vacancies on the Board.
When folks in the community heard that I had not been appointed, they urged me to run for one of the two elected seats. I never saw myself as “a politician” because I had always been the kind of person who did the work behind the scenes. But ultimately, I decided to run, because I believe my experiences have given me both expertise and empathy. My entire career has focused on making schools better for all kids. Throughout the pandemic, I helped special education leaders across Maryland support our students with disabilities. Now, I support districts around the country as they solve their hardest problems. I am running for School Board because I want to continue doing this work for my city, out of love for our children.”