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School board considers diversity and equity policy

  • Written by Bill Lewis

The Northshore School District Board of Directors is considering a policy on diversity and equity in its schools, designed to guarantee equal educational opportunity, regardless of students’ “race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, mental health status, disability, age, sexual orientation, religious status or gender expression.”

The policy, submitted to the board at its May 9 meeting, is the work of the district’s 16-member Equity and Diversity Committee. The committee, made up of school administrators, parents, students and community members, was appointed last fall to write the policy and led by Chris Bigelow, Northshore’s director of Students Services.

The document sets seven goals for the district to meet in order to achieve education equity for students:
Equitable Access and Outcomes: “Barrier-free” access  by students to all school district programs, and “dynamic resources to support high academic, social, emotional and behavioral growth.”

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment:  Provide school district staff with access to professional development instruction in “culturally responsive” curriculum and teaching methods.

Hiring and Staffing Practices: A district-wide commitment to recruiting and hiring “highly qualified, diverse and culturally competent administrators, teachers, certified support personnel and classified staff.”

Professional Learning and Growth: Provide staff with opportunities to learn about barriers to learning and implicit bias, and the effect those factors have on students.

Community and Family Engagement: Cultivate strong partnerships between schools and families, and “ensure diverse community representation in task forces, committees and events, at the school and district level.”
Distribution of Resources: A “data-informed, needs-base” policy of allocating resources to school programs that support equal educational opportunity
Institutional structures: Remedy practices that have resulted in some groups of students being over-represented in special education and disciplinary programs, and under-represented in programs for high-achieving students.
Bigelow praised the work of the diversity committee, which he said had few outlines to follow as it wrote the diversity policy.
“There are not a lot of policies out there,” he said.
Board Vice President Kimberly D’Angelo called the document, which the school board will vote on later this spring, “one of the most well put-together policies we have ever had.”
D’Angelo said she was pleased with a provision in the policy requiring the district’s diversity director to set targets measuring efforts to achieve educational equity, and to report to the school board at least twice a year on whether those targets are being met.
That provision guarantees that the policy “is not just collecting dust on the shelves. It is something we will be using,” she said.

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