YUHSD identifies spaces of equity for students and staff
A recent internal audit of Yuma Union High School District departments and programs identified 200 “spaces of equity,” where students and staff are presented equal opportunities regardless of race and ethnicity, gender, (dis)ability, et cetera.
With buzzwords like “unprecedented,” “daunting” and “learning loss” comprising the latest academic year, the district embarked on an initiative to identify 100 spaces across the district within which all individuals are allowed to reach their fullest potential, according to Chief Academic Officer Eric Brooks, who presented the project to the district governing board during its June 9 meeting.
“We wanted to make sure that we took the time to focus on all of the really positive things in our district; one of the things that we are most proud of is our equity stance,” Brooks said.
Vista High School, he noted, is just one example. According to Brooks, enrollment for the alternative public high school located at 3150 S. Avenue A is open to every student in Yuma County without barriers, as are all YUHSD campuses; this year, Vista served students with home addresses in Yuma’s north end, the Foothills, the Yuma Valley and South County.
To stay connected with its bilingual families, the school also uses a digital messaging system called Kipsu that allows for twoway communication between educators and parents, as one of the system’s built-in features translates messages into the parents’ primary language.
“Equity is not only for us inside the district walls of YUHSD; it also extends to our parents,” Brooks said. “Imagine being a parent whose primary language is not English and wanting to help and support your student. These sort of systems allow parents the opportunity to find out what’s going on with their students
and to be that support that their students need.”
According to Brooks, similar systems are in place in all YUHSD schools.
Meanwhile students of bilingual families have access to the district’s Structured English Immersion (SEI) program, where they’re guided through the different levels of proficiency by teachers who are trained to help them achieve success “in creative ways.”
“We are constantly finding ways to improve proficiency for our students; we have students whose primary language is not English, but our amazing students do academically very well in our schools,” Brooks said.
Equity of opportunity extends to Advanced Placement (AP) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes as well. According to Brooks’ presentation, student rosters in Yuma High School’s AP calculus, biology, chemistry and physics and CTE law and public safety, sports medicine and welding courses are particularly diverse, with male, female, Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, special education, English Language Learner (ELL) and migrant students represented.
In the days of tracking in education, it was often thought that students with perceivably higher intellectual prowess should be placed in AP courses, while Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses were the place for their peers who were more skilled with their hands. According to Brooks, this isn’t the mindset of YUHSD.
“We don’t do that,” he said. “We give each of our students equity of opportunity in regards to the fact that they have the Cambridge curriculum – by far one of the most rigorous curriculums that is out and available to students today. All of our students take those courses. We do offer AP courses, and we do offer CTE. So as opposed to either/or, for our district it becomes a both/and.”
Additionally, according to Brooks, all students have the opportunity to participate in leadership classes and hold positions on their school’s student council.
“Any student who wants to be a leader should have the opportunity to show their prowess to become a leader,” Brooks said.
All cohorts also have access to ACT practice tests, which differ by grade level.
“Ninth grade preparation looks very different than 12th grade preparation,” Brooks said. ”That’s equity. Not everyone gets the same thing; people get what they need.”
On the employee side of the house, similar levels of diversity exist in the district technology department as in Yuma High’s AP and CTE programs. While 63% male and 37% female, in terms of district experience, technology experience and level of education, the department’s personnel run the gamut. Some technology staff hold 0-15 years’ experience both in the district and in technology, others hold 16-30 and others hold 31-plus. The average, according to Brooks, is 12 years in the district and 13 years in technology. Additionally, 26 of the 36 individuals comprising the department are “YUHSD grown,” Brooks noted, meaning they completed their education at one of the district’s high schools.
According to Brooks, the district’s executive cabinet is “one of the greatest examples of balance.” The 12-member cabinet is 45% male and 55% female, with four YUHSD graduates and varying levels of experience – 18% of the personnel hold 0-15 years experience, 46% hold 16-30 and 36% hold upwards of 31.
“With that sort of balance you’re able to accomplish many things, because you have a variety of equity of voice and you have equity of experience,” Brooks said.
At Kofa High School, the project revealed an imbalance in administrative leadership. While the ratio of male to female was 9:7 in the 2019-2020 academic year, the ratio shifted to 10:4 in 2020-2021.
“We are cognizant of the discrepancy between male and female representation in leadership,” Brooks said. “As we move forward, we will cultivate our female leaders and provide opportunities for their increased participation.”
According to Superintendent Gina Thompson, YUHSD “has always stood very strong in the aspect of equity.”
“We were striving for equity of experience and opportunity for every student; we have the foundation so that we can meet every student where they are and have them college, career and community prepared upon graduation,” she said. “The other part of our equity is that we offer equity of opportunity for staff as well, and we continue to offer career pathways that will keep them within our own district and therefore our own community.”
The presentation can be viewed at www.youtube.com/YUHSD at the 18:30 mark of the video “YUHSD Monthly Board Meeting (June 9, 2021).”