Community Panel | Webster University

Community Panel

"Our region’s youth present our greatest opportunity to impact positive and lasting change, in this and future generations. These signature calls to action speak to the needs of children and youth. In the area of child well-being, the calls to action address supporting the whole child, ending hunger for children and families, reforming school discipline, and leveraging the influence of schools to improve childhood health. In the area of education infrastructure reform, the calls to action address early childhood education, education innovation, and school accreditation (p.18)."

One of the Signature Priorities for the Ferguson Commission (2015) is the establishment of "Youth at the Center."  This idea of "Youth at the Center" is critical to the social justice and equity struggles for education policymakers in the US.  Our panelists are engaged in the daily work of supporting children and youth. This offers an opportunity for active learning and growth based on their different contexts. Youth at the Center, excerpt from Forward Through Ferguson

Charles K Burton, Jr., JD

Pastor Charles K. Burton, Jr., JD

Rev. Charles Burton is a bi-vocational Pastor.  He currently Pastors Unity Fellowship Church in Godfrey, Illinois and the Interim Chief Human Resources Officer of St. Louis Public Schools.

He is the Past President of the United Congregations of Metro East (UCM) and Co-Founder and Past Co-Convener of Gamaliel of Illinois.  Through these organizations he partners with local congregations and unions to engage in grassroots community organizing aimed at empowering God’s people to build his Kingdom rooted in His love.  He has helped lead the fight for the rights of minorities in housing, education, jobs and immigration reform.  The mission of UCM is to be a powerful organization committed to combating the root causes of systemic injustice in our region by uniting people of faith in transforming our communities. Charles has traveled extensively through Illinois meeting with Unions and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to lobby for diversity and inclusion in admission and hiring practices.  He has lobbied in Springfield, IL equitable educational funding and Washington, D.C. on various issues such as Immigration Reform and the demand for Congress to update Federal minority participation goals.

Charles’ academic credentials include a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from Washington University School of Law; a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois.  Charles Burton was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1998.  Charles Burton is a proud product of the St. Louis Public Schools, where he currently serves as the Interim Chief Human Resources Officer.  This year the District has taken great care in building an equity lens into its hiring and staffing practices.  Charles prides himself on building structure and effective teams. He feels honored and blessed to have the opportunity to give back to the school District that invested so much into him. Charles’ life’s work is undergirded by the words of the prophet Micah, “…What doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” 

Charles is married to the love of his life, Renee (a math teacher at Metro High School).  They have three amazing children, Charles III, Gabrielle, and David.  The Burton Family values are Faith, Family, Health and the pursuit of knowledge.  Their commitment to education is undergirded by the belief that, "Education is not preparation for life; Education is life itself." - John Dewey

Rev. Regina A. Gray

Regina Gray

Rev. Regina A. Gray was raised in Chicago, Illinois. She is the fifth of eight siblings. She holds an undergraduate degree in Communications and Organizational Leadership from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.

She has over twenty plus years of government service in three different agencies. She has served as a Child-Welfare Specialist and mentor to children in the Illinois foster care system. She has also served as an educator for the Crete-Monee, Illinois school district for K-12th grades prior to leaving Illinois.

Rev. Gray relocated to St. Louis to attend Eden Theological Seminary where she earned a Master of Divinity Degree. She currently worships and serves as the Minister of Education of The Antioch Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Dr. F. Delano R. Benson Jr.

Rev. Gray is an educational leader for Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU). Min. Gray started this work when she worked with MCU’s parent company Gamaliel in the Illinois south suburbs. She works tirelessly to obtain equity in education by breaking the school to prison pipeline throughout the St. Louis area.

“I believe that our children need the freedom to grow. When we stop them from developing to their full potential of whom they are naturally born to be, we set them up for a lifelong struggle. It does not have to be this way. We operate from hurt and survival modes instead of places of power says Rev. Gray. Her passion to comfort those that are hurting and need help with their struggles as she serves God. She is married to Mr. Tony Gray, stepmother to his son, Markis and daughter, LaToya both reside in Illinois and the mother of their two daughters, Brittini also a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary and Aysha who is a junior at the Webster Groves high school.

  • MCU attacks school-to-prison pipeline. By Tiffany Shawn, Saint Louis American. November 16, 2017. Online
Adelaide Lancaster

Adelaide Lancaster

Adelaide Lancaster is a co-founder of We Stories, a local non-profit organization that utilizes children's literature to help white families talk about race and racism with their children and engage with racial justice efforts. In two short years, they have worked with over 550 families across 67 zip codes in the St. Louis region. She also serves on the board of directors for Forward Through Ferguson, the organizational outgrowth of the Ferguson Commission. Forward Through Ferguson is tasked with advancing racial equity region-wide and focuses on systemic root causes of inequity created by both policy and practice. Their organizational initiatives are rooted in the principle of putting an impacted community at the center of the work. Adelaide is also active in equity efforts in the Webster Groves School District, where her children are enrolled in school.

  • St. Louis County moms help white parents talk about race with kids. By Kristen Taketa St. Louis Post-Dispatch Apr 10, 2016. Online

  • We Stories help parents talk to children about race. By Art Holliday. KSDK April 13, 2017. Online

John Simpson

John Simpson

John Simpson is the superintendent of the Webster Groves School District. He holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Maryville University as well as a master’s in education administration. Before becoming superintendent, he was the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. Under his leadership, the school district has sharpened its focus on efforts to advance a culture of equity and justice its schools and community.

  • Taking Aim at the Achievement Gap, Webster Kirkwood Times. Online
  • Blog. Each Child Each Day. Online

Lara Hamdan

Lara Hamdan (Panel Moderator)

"Lara Hamdan is a multimedia journalist who works with St. Louis Public Radio and is on the production team for the station’s live/call-in talk show, St. Louis on the Air. As a reporter, she’s covered the Trump administration’s travel bans’ effect on St. Louisans, the Stockley protests, and the local immigrant community. As a producer, she’s booked segments regarding religious and cultural expression, Missouri legislation, and youth activism.

Lara attended Webster University where she studied international relations and journalism. She started as an intern at St. Louis Public Radio in May 2017 and is continuing her work exploring local issues and challenges whilst highlighting community voices."

Khaila Jones

Khaila Jones (Panel Moderator)

Khaila Jones is a junior here at Webster University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education. She is a Gregory H. Hampton Scholar as well as a member of the Tau Sigma honors society. Here on campus Khaila is involved as a Student Ambassador, a member of the Student Education Association, and the secretary of the Association of African American Collegians.