Education equity advocates offer suggestions for school change

Ellarry PrenticeLetter to the Editor, Print Sartell - St. StephenLeave a Comment

Members of Envisioned Equity For All, Sartell

A number of members of our group, Envisioned Equity For All (EEFA), were present at the board meeting on Aug 5. While we were initially encouraged by the equity audit proposal being present on the agenda, we were dismayed and discouraged by the “No” votes cast, resulting in the motion’s failure.

At the July 8 work session, we had observed a strong positive response from the board to move in a direction to support this endeavor. The reasons given for the “No” votes surprised us on multiple levels, especially when it was cited that more research needed to be done, despite having approximately one month between the two work sessions. We also were surprised to hear there were “others who did not want this” and that the cost was cited multiple times.

Our members, as well as other students and parents present at the meeting, clearly supported this effort and were disappointed to hear these statements from the board. At the June listening session, students and parents bravely came forward to speak on their experiences within the district, and this line of reasoning discounted those experiences as not being worth the potential expenditure.

While we can appreciate there is a cost involved in completing an audit of this type and magnitude, the board cannot ignore the issues presented and must reconsider the equity audit proposal. While we wait for the board to take action, students facing inequities in our school and community continue to suffer.

We are confident the board can and will take appropriate action to ensure equity in our schools. As a group, EEFA is requesting the board consider the following items for action and implementation to not only show a good-faith effort toward encouraging equity in our district, but also to show our students the issue of equity is important to the Board and that their voices are heard and valued.

Complete an equity audit

Engage an equity audit provider before the end of the first semester to complete an equity audit for the district.

Publish the full results and recommendations of the equity audit on the district website so all district students and their parents as well as Sartell-St. Stephen residents have the opportunity to learn about and address any potential issues and/or concerns addressed in the Audit.

Develop a plan for implementation of the recommendations of the audit and communicate this plan to the public.

Engage an equity coordinator to ensure the recommendations of the audit are implemented.

Utilize board committees and engage public voices

Resurrect the multi-cultural subcommittee and ensure the membership includes not only board members and administration, but also students, parents and community members.

Utilize the multi-cultural subcommittee to engage with groups such as EEFA and Student Advocates for Equity to obtain commentary and feedback on current issues that remain within the district.

Provide regular listening sessions on topics of equity, including, but not limited to, issues of race, sexuality, gender, religion and/or any other topic where equity is lacking.

Provide opportunities
for staff and students

Research opportunities for staff education on issues of equity and implement quality, on-going training.

Provide an opportunity for students to anonymously report observed or experienced equity issues via an online format. Utilize the current tip line/form for unsafe behavior and expand the reach to also include incidents of discrimination/equity issues.

Engage speakers and/or course work opportunities for students to enhance their knowledge and understanding regarding issues of equity.

Ongoing monitoring

Require each building to keep records of equity-related complaints from staff and students, including but not limited to, issues of race, sexuality, gender, religion and/or any other protected class. Records should be redacted for staff and/or student privacy and kept on file for a minimum of 36 months.

Equity-related complaints should be documented in a formal format which should include not only the type of complaint lodged but also an action plan to address the issues raised.

Annually, review the equity- related complaints to provide data to the district (e.g. number of equity complaints received, number of complaints related to race, number of complaints related to gender). This will not only allow the board to have a visual representation of the number of complaints lodged but also to target and address areas where continued complaints exist – which also helps to show progress in Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports record-keeping.

Ensure action plans outlined have been completed.

We at EEFA hope you will seriously consider our suggestions and implement the action items listed above. We would be happy to help with these efforts in any way we can and to discuss with the board our ideas and suggestions. Thank you for your continued efforts.

Author: Ellarry Prentice

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