Equity ERA in Colonial: Engage, Reflect, Act
We all watched the events in Minneapolis in May 2020 and the unfolding frustration, anger and sadness boil over into violence across the country. At the heart of this incredible display of raw emotion and pain is institutional racism that has plagued this country for far too long. Talking about institutional racism is not simple. It requires courage through conversations and action. Colonial is committed to confronting racism and it’s systemic impact on our community and doing everything in our power to eliminate it. #PowerofWECSD
The Colonial School District remains committed to its work towards seeking equity in the workforce, the classroom, and in the community. This intentional movement called ERA has been designed to Engage all employees in courageous conversations around equity while allowing participants to Reflect on their own identity and self-awareness and to Act to create change for our students and the greater community (ERA). There are several groups committed to do this work:
Equity Practitioner Program
The goal of this program is to learn, discuss and explore systematic racism and oppression.
Participants hold clinics and seminars with fellow district employees as well as those at the Odyssey Charter School. William Penn teacher Shelby Borst says, “Our work within the Equity Practitioner’s Program has been an incredibly powerful experience. It is important for a variety of reasons – from our own personal journeys to being the change we want to see in our district, our community, and in larger society. We want to arm ourselves with the knowledge and language that is needed to make systemic change in this country. We not only want to empower our students with the same knowledge and tools that we have received within this program, but we envision a more equitable, fair, and safe environment for our students to thrive.”
The Proximity Project
Eight teacher leaders and administrators are participating in an eight-week program that prompts them to examine and reform how they interact with and serve communities of color.
This group has had equity conversations with students, families, and community members.
Wilbur Assistant Principal Kishayla Payne-Miller says, “This work is important because a lot is happening in the world and I need to be able to engage in those tough conversations to be prepared to handle situations as they arise. I feel the equity conversations have allowed me to be conscious of what is happening in the world, gain different perspectives, and have the knowledge needed to engage in various conversations. It has also allowed me to share my story with others and allow them to understand my experiences.
Dr. Crystal Lancour, who is also Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction says, “My goal for participating in the Proximity Project was to deepen my own understanding of race and equity to be able to strengthen our efforts here in Colonial, most specifically focused on our professional learning for our staff. Based on my experiences in this program, I have already started to embed many of the activities into our learning experiences for Colonial across many levels.”
Learn more about the project at https://www.teensharp.org/tpp/
Equity Professional Development
Co-Lead Facilitator Dr. Crystal Lancour says these PD sessions among staff in all schools and divisions have been a huge success. Feedback from participants include comments like:
- “Thank you for this training, especially keeping it to our school family. It was much easier to talk and be vulnerable. I appreciate your leadership with this topic, you are helping us all as teachers make history.”
- “This is such important work! Proud to be in Colonial where we truly know “WE” means ALL – thank you!!!”
- “These are great! Please continue to MAKE us do them, they are MUCH needed!!”
COLONIAL STATEMENTS ABOUT EQUITY
July 16, 2020
WE Focus on Equity
While focusing on equity in Colonial Nation began several years ago, a District Equity Team has been meeting in earnest since January. Dr. Crystal Lancour is among the administrators helping to facilitate this effort saying, “We have a commitment to equity in Colonial and that means we are learning and growing to gain a deeper understanding of race, equity, and its impact on student learning so our Colonial community is stronger together.” The administrators, teachers, and staff on the Equity Team know the work means having tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations around race and the importance of equity in a district where the majority of students are black and brown, but the staff does not reflect that in the classroom and beyond.
Last week the group shared what is called Equity ERA (Engage-Reflect-Act). ERA is a self-guided learning resource link that contains documents, videos, book selections, and more for team members and staff to review. The goal of ERA is for team members and staff to have the resources needed to learn and reflect on race-related issues in order to raise self-awareness and sensitivity for the sake of students of color.
“Every learner in Colonial deserves the best from us as educators, so we have to ensure that we know our students and ourselves well enough to be able to provide learning experiences that meet their academic, and social/emotional needs. Understanding race and equity and its impact on learning is a huge part of this journey in order for us to do that effectively,” Lancour said.
June 19, 2020
More on Colonial’s Focus on Equity
Since 2016, The Colonial School District (CSD) began taking a hard look at race and equity. Statistics show the experiences of black and brown students are not the same as white students and our team of administrators and teachers do not reflect our largely Black and Brown student population.
To provide the best outcomes for all students, CSD established the following groups to focus on equity:
- Educators of Color (EOC-Est. 2016)
- Who is involved: Teachers, Administrators, Public Information Officer (PIO), Media Specialist
- Primary Focus: Recruiting and retention of Teachers of Color
- District Leadership Equity Focus (Est. Summer 2018)
- Who is involved: District, Division and School-based administrators
- Primary Focus: Develop skills at facilitating conversations about race and equity
- District Leadership Council (Est. Summer 2019)
- Who is involved: Superintendent’s Council
- Primary Focus:Deep dive into racial conversations, data discovery, book studies
- Nutrition Equity Team (Est. Fall 2019)
- Who is involved: Nutrition Workers and EOC members
- Primary Focus:Support our diverse school population through menu choices and options
- Educators Practitioner Program (Est. Winter 2019)(EPP)
- Who is involved: Teachers
- Primary Focus:Gives educators the skills and resources to engage others with equity work. A goal is to advance the equity work.
- District Equity Team (Est. Winter 2020)
- Who is involved: Teachers, Administrators, PIO
- Primary Focus: Develop a deep understanding of race and its relationship to equitable practices and outcomes for all learners, assess the needs of programs, departments, schools, and the organization as a whole as related to race and equity work, create a Colonial School District Equity Plan to guide our focus and work, support school leaders in leading equity work at the building level in the coming months and years, lead staff in organizing efforts to infuse institutional change within Colonial.
- Transportation Equity Team (Est. Winter 2020)
- Who is involved: Transportation Administrators and workers, along with EOC members
- Primary Focus: Determine a role for transportation workers with our equity work (only had one meeting due to COVID-19)
All group participants agree there is no quick fix but believe the intentional focus on equity is a great first step for CSD. In addition to the focus groups, CSD also established a new position, Director of Talent Development, which will be headed by Jennifer Alexander, the former principal of Pleasantville Elementary School. Among other things, Alexander’s goal is to recruit the most qualified minority teachers she can find to educate Colonial students. “Colonial is a district that believes our students deserve role models who look like them. Our district is committed to proving the resources, support, and professional development to grow teachers so they can acquire the skills necessary to provide instruction to meet the needs of ALL students,” she says.
June 13, 2020
Institutional racism has plagued this country for far too long. Talking about institutional racism is not simple. It requires courage through conversations and action. Colonial is committed to confronting racism and it’s systemic impact on our community and doing everything in our power to eliminate it and sustain the change.
June 1, 2020
June 1, 2020
We all watched the events in Minneapolis in May 2020 and the unfolding frustration, anger and sadness boil over into violence across the country. At the heart of this incredible display of raw emotion and pain is institutional racism that has plagued this country for far too long. Talking about institutional racism is not simple. It requires courage through conversations and action. Colonial is committed to confronting racism and it’s systemic impact on our community and doing everything in our power to eliminate it.