Schools chug along with eq­uity plan

Board up­dated on progress

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By AN­DREW CEPHAS acephas@somd­news.com

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/.

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