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This interview with Anna Siegal took place via Zoom on November 17, 2020. At the time of this interview, Anna was the Executive Director of Red Hook Playgroup, a progressive, community-based early education school for children between the ages of 2 and 5, based in Red Hook, NYC. In this interview, Anna talks about how children are growing and adapting during this time, and she explains that the five-year-olds remember what it was like before the COVID-19 pandemic and the three-year-olds do not. Anna shares that the first two months of the school year felt relatively 'normal', but that this next round of planning has resurfaced the chaos and stress of not having a full picture of the future but that she needs to plan anyway around health, budget, relief, staffing, enrollment, etc. Anna talks about how the weeks leading up to the election created a kind of tension she had never felt before that was an anxiety kind of tension, not tension of different political sides. The result brought a huge, existential relief, mostly in knowing that the continuous uncertainty would come to an end.
Anna also talks about how, last year, when planning for a year of uncertainty, they knew they could cover it financially and keep equity and mission in mind. This year, that has changed. She shares that they are in balancing budgets-mode and deciding whether they will cover full expenses for one last year or try to stretch things. Anna states that a lot has gone back to the basics, with fewer bells and whistles. Time and resources, and a lack of both, come up frequently in this interview.
Themes that come up in this interview relate to: the economics of things costing more and having fewer resources to do what is needed in a private school environment; the uncertainty and chaos and tension this creates for staff; and a feeling of already being burned out with another long haul to come.
Anna Levy is a researcher, strategic analyst, educator and oral historian. Most of her work is at the intersection of accountability politics, structural inequality, historical and collective memory, and the role of civilian movements in economic and political transitions. She uses mixed research methods to map out the pressures and incentives guiding complex systems--including the political economy of organizations or cities in crisis, militarized border bureaucracies, or the shifting legal and digital frontlines of collective civic action, among others. Anna uses oral history to bring out the multiple, intersecting experiences that make up the day-to-day of those systems in order to help inform advocacy, policy and power shifts. She teaches on emergency and disaster politics at Fordham University and is an avid capoeirista. Her website is | Jafsadi.works.
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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.