Although the way we deliver instruction has changed, I want to assure you that our district commitment to equity in HVRSD remains. As you may know, this commitment is not a new one. Several years ago, we recognized the need to develop a more culturally sensitive school community. The HVRSD Board of Education passed a comprehensive equity policy outlining our commitment to and support for our actions. This policy, as well as evidence of our related efforts, is available on our website.
At the September 2020 meeting, the Board of Education reviewed the results of our year-long equity audit. This audit included: surveys of students, teachers, and families; the creation of student and faculty focus groups at Hopewell Valley Central High School and Timberlane Middle School; and the convening of two community conversations, one broad conversation and another for families of color. We are continuing our efforts by working to diversify our curriculum, establishing an equity council, and providing professional development in culturally responsive teachings and conversations.
The audit recognized the district for a number of positive steps that have been taken thus far. However, we understand that there is still significant work to be done. We also realize that we cannot do this alone; we will need the full support of the greater community in order to realize a lasting impact.
This fall, HVRSD is offering two more community events to discuss issues of equity in our schools and community:
On October 15, at 6:30pm via Zoom webinar, Dr. Howard Stevenson will discuss how racial stress and racial trauma can affect every stage of life. His work focuses on how educators, community leaders, students, and parents can emotionally resolve face-to-face, racially stressful encounters that reflect racial profiling in public spaces, fuel social conflicts in neighborhoods, and undermine our emotional well-being. Dr. Stevenson presented to our staff in early September.
On December 9, at 6:30pm via Zoom webinar, Dr. Kelly will moderate a follow-up to her June Community Dialogue. We invite teachers, students, community and school leaders, and members of the community at large to engage in a conversation as we seek solutions to help us move forward together towards healing and social justice as a community. Dr. Kelly presented to our staff last fall.
Despite the commitment of many individuals, serious issues persist in our schools and community. It is imperative that we address these issues, as a district and with the support of the broader Hopewell community. Together, we need to own and accept responsibility for these issues; those that are clearly visible as well as underlying systemic concerns. This work will continue as we engage collaboratively in critical discovery and exploration. I invite you to join us on this journey.
Thomas A. Smith, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Below are a few of our efforts to address equity in our schools:
One District’s Willingness to Start a Difficult Conversation - an article published in a statewide journal in 2017 about our work. It is available here.
Mission Statement - Our District Mission Statement, developed several years ago by a committee of parents, students, and staff members, contains a Belief and Diversity statement that helps to guide our programs.
Board Policy on Equity - In 2017, the BOE approved one of the strongest student Educational Equity Policies in the county.
Hiring Practices - We have a long standing commitment to hiring qualified educators of color with our participation in CJPRIDE.
Staff Education - Over the past three years we have partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, professors from Temple University and Rutgers University, to provide mandatory professional development around cultural competency, racial literacy, and disproportionality. We are continuing with our multi-year professional development plan focused on equity.
Curricular Updates Include Local History - We are in the process of revising all curriculum K-12 to educate and reflect upon our cultural diversity. Local residents and community leaders, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck, have addressed students, Board of Education committees, and staff to help us embed local Hopewell Valley African American history into our curriculum.
Curricular Updates Include Racial Literacy -In the spring of 2019, the District received a grant from Facing History and Ourselves to provide staff training and implemented new units of study at TMS and CHS. All freshmen courses will now foster conversations about race and racial literacy.
Access and Disportionality - Several years ago, the Board and administration conducted a thorough data review to identify systemic barriers which exist that prohibit access to advanced level classes, as well as overrepresentation in basic skills and special education. Entrance and waiver processes were revised; our efforts to provide access were recognized by the College Board.
Student Discipline - We have implemented more sensitive discipline practices and we are exploring restorative practices, to include a protocol for racial and bias incidents. This protocol consists of restorative practice, an educational component, and a discipline component. Our protocol has been adopted by several districts.
Athletics Parent Code of Conduct and Participation Agreement - Last spring, we implemented a policy to set expectations for spectators that will promote respect and good sportsmanship. Positive and supportive conduct will be required for parents/guardians and their guests at all athletic events. A contract will be included in the athletic packet and must be signed by the player’s parents/guardians prior to participation.
Student Groups - Prior to the school closure, a researcher conducted over 20 focus groups with TMS and CHS to learn about their experiences in our district related to race, class, and gender. We have established affinity groups that provide opportunities for students to support one another. This summer, we will add a component where former district students of color will mentor existing students. We have several student groups at TMS and CHS focused on proactively expanding equity and cultural exposure.
Collaborative Involvement - A few years ago, a committee of district parents, students, and staff members met regularly to identify areas of growth in equity and cultural competency. The work of the committee culminated with the development of a framework that guides our work. Additional groups in the district and community have formed to continue these important conversations.