Several years ago, our Board of Education made a commitment to identify and address issues of equity in our school district. This work is manifesting itself through changes in our curriculum, the books our students read, equitable access to our programs, and our workforce. Our goal is for Black History to be infused in our curriculum and discussed every month, not just in February. Another example of this commitment is our school calendar. When the Board approved the calendars for school years 2019-2024, they included the additions of Diwali and Lunar New Year to recognize the changing demographics in our community.
On Friday, February 12, schools will be closed in recognition of the Lunar New Year. This observation is just one example of our District’s continuing commitment to equity and developing a more culturally sensitive school community. On Monday, February 15, the District will close in recognition of Presidents’ Day.
Our school-based equity work, led by our Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece, in coordination with Dr. Lauren Kelly, is focused on developing a more culturally sensitive school community. We invite teachers, students, and community members to engage in school-based conversations to identify and address equity issues in our schools.
In addition to our school-based meetings, we are proud to have hosted four community conversations on equity and diversity. We encourage any interested parents, staff, and students to join our next district-wide conversation on equity scheduled for Wednesday, March 10 at 6:30. Zoom Link.
Our Board of Education and administration remain committed to identifying and addressing equity issues in the district. I invite you to join us on our journey as we engage collaboratively in critical discovery and exploration.
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. Humanities courses 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.