CharterFolk X, Vol 15 – Delia Kumabe, Summing Up a Vision for Our Entire Movement in Just Three Letters

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today I am delighted to recognize Delia Kumabe, Founder and Instructional Coach of EJE Academies in El Cajon, California as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

Some of you may remember how in last week’s CharterFolk Extraordinaire recognition of Caitlin Ritter I highlighted that many CharterFolk’s commitment to education grows out of being part of families who have demonstrated generations of work in education. So it is with Delia and her family.

EJE’s other founder is Delia’s mother, Eva Pacheco. I hope you might have a minute to hear Delia and her mother describe the conditions that gave rise to their extraordinary school …

And for those of you who might have a few more minutes, I encourage you to read Eva’s biography on the EJE website recounting how her commitment to education runs all the way back to her roots as an educator in Mexico.

Delia and Eva have made their extraordinary mark on our movement creating a bilingual elementary school and middle school serving 700 students and families in a primarily Latino community in El Cajon, a town approximately 15 miles inland from San Diego. They did so after their community’s school district refused to listen to parents and closed down a bilingual program that parents desperately wanted for their kids. Taking matters into their own hands, those very parents, supported by extraordinary leaders like Eva and Delia, made a charter school that is now widely recognized to be among the most successful public schools in all of San Diego County.

In the founding and the naming of their organization, Delia and her mother seized upon perhaps the most succinct expression of a vision for our movement that I have ever come across. It boils down my entire 1800-word post in June on this topic to three simple words:

  • Education
  • Justice
  • Excellence

Which they further sum up in just three letters: EJE.

Put simply, our movement exists because our society’s public education system is not as just as it needs to be, nor is it as excellent. And it is our role to make sure that our nation’s schools become much more just – places where educational opportunity is more equitably allocated than it is today; and much more excellent – places where students learn more than they are learning now.

I know of no school in our world that more impressively models a commitment to these three letters than EJE Academies. I have seen it in the many visits I have made to EJE over the years. I have seen it in the extraordinary academic results that EJE has achieved, routinely generating outcomes with students that far exceed what area schools are achieving with similar demographics of students. I have seen it in the way that the school engages and empowers parents who have proven to be the very lifeblood of the organization. And I have seen it in the deep commitment that EJE holds to honor the Mexican heritage from which so many of its students, families and staff come, as seen most recently by their hosting a COVID-era virtual concert featuring a performance by the school’s amazing mariachi band, which you can see at the 13 minute mark in the video below:

It all starts with the extraordinary commitment that EJE’s founders bring to its founding letters. In all my years in charter schools, no single statement about our commitment to educational excellence and justice surpasses what Delia expresses in just 24 seconds in the video below.

Whether it’s doing so in 24 seconds or in just three letters, Delia Kumabe and her great team at EJE Academies create an incredibly compelling vision for what our movement is all about. It’s why I couldn’t be happier than to recognize Delia here as yet another stunning example of CharterFolk Extraordinaire.