Schools chug along with equity plan
Board updated on progress
In compliance with Calvert County Public Schools’ Policy Statement No. 1015, the board of education received an update at its Sept. 14 meeting on what the school system is doing to achieving more equitability for its students and staff.
CCPS Policy Statement No. 1015 focuses on equity and is purposed to ensure all policies, procedures and practices are equitable, ensure the recruitment, hiring and retention of culturally, racially and linguistically diverse staff, ensure all students receive an education that maximizes their potential to achieve college and career readiness regardless of race, culture, gender, orientation or economic status and raise achievement for all students by closing achievement and opportunity gaps among student subgroups. The policy further calls for the development and implementation of a
district equity plan.
The recently approved CCPS Strategic Plan also focuses on providing equitable learning opportunities to all students, promoting a culturally responsive workforce and promoting equitable allocation of resources.
At the Sept. 14 school board meeting, Sandy Walker, supervisor of equity and school improvement, focused on the importance of equity, the systemic framework necessary for moving forward and actions in place for this school year.
Walker began by explaining that equity and equality are not the same. He said equality has a place in society as all people are the same and should receive the same, but not everyone is born the same or has the same life experiences.
“It’s our responsibility to prepare every child to reach their potential for life, to take comfort in their liberty and find their path to pursue happiness. Every child is not the same and we should not only celebrate that uniqueness, but we need to build on it. The work of equity strives to give each student what they need in order to reach the standard while removing all barriers,” Walker told the school board, indicating equity is not only about race, but is not about avoiding race either.
Everyone in the school system has a role and is responsible in achieving equity, Walker said. He described achieving equity as a process with three different continuum stages.
The first stage is forming and growing equity teams, building a district-wide baseline understanding and developing common language for discussing equity across the county. Walker said CCPS is in the latter part of this stage at this time and eyeing stage two.
The second stage of achieving equity — which Walker referred to as the longest and most difficult stage — focuses on identifying inequities at building and county levels, putting an equity plan into action and continuing District Equity Leadership Team (DELT) presentations in schools.
The DELT team is composed of at least one equity liaison from each school along with community members who will support the equity plan, receive equity training and build their leadership skills. Each school also has its own equity team which is led by a DELT member. These teams are tasked with supporting building goals and initiatives and promoting equity.
Student member of the board Thomas Ridenour asked if student members have been considered to be allowed on the school equity teams, to which Walker replied yes, but it depends on the building, people and time.
“Huntingtown High has a student equity team and two of their students participate with their [school’s] equity team, but they have a team that’s been running for awhile and the members know each other well. They’re comfortable with each other and also knowledgable about equity,” Walker said, indicating he wouldn’t recommend this for a school just starting. “It’s an internal process and I don’t think you want students in there while the adults are having conversations trying to hash out certain biases, feelings and revelations.”
The final stage involves an evaluation and adjustment period where there would be continual support of the equity plan, inequities would be tracked and DELT presentations would continue in schools.
“I’ve sought to build partnerships with community organizations. I believe that we will not become successful in becoming equitable without the community and their support,” Walker said, specifying that he is working with interfaith groups and the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County. He is working to compose a community equity leadership team to help the community understand equity and the related school initiatives, as well as give the community an avenue to inform the school system about issues of which it may not be aware.
Schools superintendent Daniel Curry noted that Victoria Karol, director of strategic partnerships and community engagement, has been tasked with growing mentors from within the community to assist students.
Walker placed an emphasis on the key role students have in achieving equity. He described the “Go-to-High-School, Go-to-College” program for young men, which is hosted by the Sigma Alpha Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He said this program helps students develop a vision for their lives while giving them the skills to advocate for themselves. Some other programs available for students are the annual teen summit and minority scholars clubs.
As many students have stories of difficulties and struggles, Walker said, “We need to be empowered to be able to tell a kid that that story is not your end story. That’s the beginning. Every story starts with a conflict and a struggle. Your struggle empowers you. It’s something unique that many other kids are not experiencing. When you start to see your obstacles and difficulties as somewhat of an achievement … that is when we can start to get buy-in and they’ll start to see value in the things we’re providing them.”
Walker described a professional development initiative known as “The Big Read,” which is an opportunity for every staff member to participate in a single book study focused on unleashing the will to succeed in all students.
In a press release from the school system, Curry said Walker has “done a great job with the equity mission in just one year.”
The board of education will continue to receive updates on equity and related issues throughout the school year. The equity policy and strategic plan is available to view through the school system’s website www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/.