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  • Writer's pictureEmily Berry

Writing racial equity into policy

Just a few months ago, our fall play was cancelled after objections to the racial slurs in the play. Suddenly systemic inequities that have been harming generations of black students in Shorewood were laid bare.

Since then, the school board and administration have been trying to move forward with a sense of urgency and seriousness with the many ways they have the power to break apart those systemic inequities. Community groups, students and families have offered to help. A survey and analysis of African-American students (commissioned long before the events in October), produced a series of evidence-based recommendations around how the district could start to better support non-white students.

This week the board will consider changes to the policies that are supposed to drive all work by the superintendent, inserting language that makes explicit that the board expects to see equity reflected in curriculum, staffing, communication with families and the community at large. There are five difference revisions drafted for what are called Operating Expectations (OEs) -- these are documents that outline how the superintendent is supposed to meet the overarching goals that the board gives him. Click here to view the agenda packet, then click on the documents themselves to see the proposed changes, under item VIII, number 2.

One of the proposed policy changes

It does not appear the board is ready to vote on these changes quite yet, but it looks like a good time to give them feedback on whether you believe these changes make sense and go far enough to accomplish what's needed across the district.

In fairness to the board and administrators, this isn't the only thing they're doing around race, and as I'm sure they would point out, there was a lot of attention to this prior it October. The thing is, those events and the aftermath made very clear that what was in progress wasn't going nearly far enough.

I think it's past time for the board to weave language around equity through board policy, so I'm glad to see this step. I don't expect them to stop there, because I think they are well aware this is a first step and not a solution. I just hope they move quickly past it and on to some more tangible changes, including and especially two things: first, asking administrators to take specific and targeted steps to hire more non-white teachers, staff and administrators, and second, to ask teachers to look at ways to deliberately redesign their materials and teaching practice to be anti-racist, inclusive of and equitable.

Please consider attending the meeting if you can -- 7 p.m. Tuesday night in the high school library. If you can't make it, you should know that all the meetings are recorded on video, and available online usually within a few days of the meeting. Click here to see a list of recordings.

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