St. Louis City School Board

Alisha Sonnier

Age: 25 

Neighborhood: Central West End 

Occupation: Mental Health Advocate/Professional 

Political experience: Alisha was born and raised in the Gateway to the West, St. Louis, Missouri. She is an unabashed mental health advocate and an impassioned community organizer, and she’s running for the SLPS Board of Education to establish every child has a gateway to success, not less. The catalyst for Alisha’s dedicated community advocacy was the unnecessary fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, sparking her involvement in the Ferguson Protests. Alisha has always understood the opportunity in intellect, and following Ferguson decided to lobby her own higher learning institution for investment in local areas, leading a campus sit-in that became known globally as OccupySLU. The occupation was resolved with St. Louis University allocating resources to a variety of educational initiatives aimed at empowering STL youth. 

Alisha’s voice only grew from there, as she has become a prominent leader in St. Louis for social movements far before their time: such as the “Fight for $15,” Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential candidacy, and helping to build people centered political power by supporting candidates from the community like Cori Bush, Rasheen Aldridge and more. Now holding a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Alisha works as a mental health advocate, and believes in a renaissance of STL through a holistic reimagining of childhood development and education. She believes off the back of a pandemic is the time to implement innovative and transparent reforms that center the child and community, and nurture a new normal for the bedrock of Saint Louis: our kids. 

Your take on opening schools during COVID-19: As mental health advocate and health issues organizer the safety and well being of our scholars, teachers, staff, and other SLPS stakeholders must be considered first and foremost. We have to prioritize keeping our SLPS community as safe as possible and ensure that if families choose a virtual option, that option is as rigorous and fulfilling as in-person options. I am a woman of the people, and it is the people who must guide the board toward quality education. When elected, I won’t have to wonder what the community is thinking because I will go into every meeting and every vote certain that I have listened, and brought the concerns of the community to the forefront of the board. And that of course includes how to navigate opening schools during COVID-19. 

Your take on the use and closure of existing school properties: I think that we are in dire need of more transparency. The community should know as much information as possible while it’s happening and not just when the district has critical, crisis decisions to make such as to close or not close schools. As a board member I would want SLPS to have as much transparency and community immersion as possible-that is that the community shouldn’t just know what’s going on and be informed but also have as many opportunities to give their input as possible. There should be opportunities to help us create solutions so that we can avoid being at critical crisis points altogether and if we do end up at that point it is a transparent process. To put it simply, the SLPS School Board not only has the ability to make lasting decisions that impact the livelihood of St. Louis students, but they have an obligation to install innovative actions that form healthy and productive adults. I’m committed to making all decisions, documents, and meetings accessible to SLPS stakeholders. I am intimately aware of the impact of an image or recording when it comes to inspiring justice, and in that same spirit, we can begin to excel our learning simply by holding our systems accountable to us. As a board member I will bring this insight of transparency to the question of school closures and I will be determined that a community led plan leads to the outcome of every board vote or decision. 

Your take on reducing crime and violence in the school system: This issue is one of my highest concerns and is in part why I am ensuring we are providing a holistic education that is rooted in overall wellness for our scholars. When we are nurturing our students as full beings we are getting to the root of issues rather than criminalizing students. One idea I have around this are racial disciplinary reports. Schools would provide a report, within a specified time frame where they would track the amount of times a disciplinary action has been reported, the consequence given, and the racial and gender demographics of each student. This would require us as a district to create a racial consciousness around how we are responding to and disciplining our students. 

Your take on ending inequity within the school district: When we are nurturing our students as full beings we are getting to the root of issues such as racism and implicit biases. This would require us as a district to create a racial consciousness around how we are responding to and disciplining our students. I am a proponent of racial equity training for all faculty and staff, as well as high expectations in the forms of reports and assessments such as the report I listed above to ensure that equity is at the center of all school communities.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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