Justice & Equity: Four Ways to Focus Teams on Improvements in Schools
A direct response to discussing current-day injustices, including this week’s trial outcome for the murder of George Floyd, has been the phrase: our children deserve better. If you agree they do deserve better (and I do), now is the time to create improvements for the 2021-22 school year.
Part of increasing inclusion, belonging, and equity is improving how, why, and when we educate children. It’s impossible to quantify or qualify the lift that teachers and other school staff have had over the last year. They deserve our gratitude, and they also need our help.
While many in our school systems have their eyes on the end of the year, it’s important to recognize that the window of opportunity to influence the next academic year is now. Curriculum design, textbook orders, hiring decisions, etc. all happen well before any summer back-to-school sales hit.
If you wait until September to ask for improvements, many decisions for the 2021-2022 school year will already be decided and paid for.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator, or active community member, now is the time to advocate for “the better” our children deserve. This starts with reviewing the school’s mission statement combined with listening to feedback from all constituents to be truly informed. Teams need to be built with a very intentional focus to drive short-term improvements and long-term change.
In the spirit of fueling momentum, below is an organized set of recommendations that can help provide a running start for new teams, or an opportunity for existing teams to recenter.
1. Communications & Training Committee
- Partner with institutional leaders to define and amplify key messages that actively and transparently advance inclusion, justice and equity, both internally and externally.
- Serve as an advisory board on the tone, frequency and use of multiple voices and how well the institution is showing up and stepping up as an ally.
- Support the institution with an annual learning plan that includes both ongoing and mandatory diversity training for all employees.
2. Teaching & Student Success Committee
- Promote the development of a diverse curriculum that introduces and challenges all students to experience inclusive learnings in their academic journey.
- Work with institutional leaders to ensure core courses and electives include diverse perspectives, materials and assignments in their design and delivery.
- Hold leaders accountable for the academic, athletic, student life, and disciplinary outcomes of underrepresented students (scholarships, grades, recruitment, awards, etc.).
3. Staff Recruitment & Retention Committee
- Evaluate current recruiting practices and hiring practices to both attract diverse candidates and provide all candidates equal opportunity to demonstrate their interest and abilities.
- Create a community of support for diverse faculty/staff, increase awareness for all identities in the workplace, and be intentional on drivers of an inclusive employee experience.
- Develop employee resource groups (ERGs); create a safe and supportive space for employees to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
4. Networking & Fundraising Committee
- Host networking events that foster connection among all school constituents (students, faculty/staff, community members, alumni, friends).
- Build meaningful and ongoing relationships between these constituents and current students.
- Host fundraising events to meet increase funding for DEI initiatives that drive the objectives of our committees and fund the mission.
To drive a more inclusive and equitable educational experience, it’s important to remember that we are people first, and then we are students/faculty/staff second. There is a human need right now to focus on our individual and collective health – emotional, mental and so much more. People working together for the right reasons can and will build new momentum. Our children do deserve better; so, let’s do this.
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