Summit School District drafts new equity policy
Policy slated for final vote by school board May 13
The Summit School District board of education on May 13 is scheduled to conduct a second reading and final vote on a proposed equity policy.
The Summit School District Policy for Just & Equitable Education was drafted by the district’s equity advisory team and presented at the April 8 school board meeting. The six-person board unanimously approved the policy on first reading.
The policy, which highlights that historical inequities persist within local public schools, says Black, Indigenous, disabled, English-language learning, immigrant, refugee and LGBTQ students “have all been negatively impacted by the institution of education.” The policy goes on to say that white students are over represented in district academic, extracurricular and athletic programs, achievement scores and honors.
The policy contains actions that would aim to “address systemic inequities and eliminate opportunity gaps.”
The policy also highlights language barriers for students.
“Institutionalized racism and systemic oppression due to language proficiency continue to have the largest impact on student performance, self-efficacy, experience of schooling and attendance in (the district),” the policy states.
At the school board’s March 25 meeting, Library Information Specialist Rebecca Kaplan and Language Development and Equity Coordinator Rita Tracy presented the district’s equity advisory team’s motivation and rationale for the policy. The presentation included quotes from Equity Literacy Institute founder Paul Gorski and The Equity Project founder Nita Mosby Tyler alongside national, state and local academic data classified by racial groups.
Prefacing the demographic data, Kaplan said the district’s achievement gaps are caused by opportunity gaps.
“It is clear not everyone has the same opportunity as a white student in this district or as a wealthy student in this district or as a male student in this district,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan pointed to several data points, including how students classified as Latinx comprise 9% of Summit High School Advanced Placement classes while making up 34% of the school’s population. She also highlighted negative data disparities of more than 20 percentage points for the Latinx demographic — relative to its representation in the overall student population — in elementary math and English testing as well as secondary school discipline.
Tracy led a section of the presentation titled “Seeing Color, Seeing Racism.”
“’The reality is if we don’t have actual sight impairments, we do see color,’” Tracy read, quoting Mosby Tyler. “The other reality is we are not all the same. The best news is we don’t need to pretend like we are colorblind or homogeneous. Diversity welcomes our differences and does not require that we explain away the fact that you and I could be as different as night and day.”
Tracy also read a definition of racism from Gorski stating that “racism is a tangled, structural mess of power, oppression and unjust distributions of access and opportunity.” She asked the board to reflect on what struck them about Gorski’s definition and how they might connect it to Mosby Tyler’s argument that they must see color.
At the April 8 meeting, Kaplan and Tracy said the policy’s accountability and review section outlines how the district would ensure the policy is adhered to, including requiring district hiring processes to reference equity and see if candidates are knowledgeable and supportive of the policy.
Kaplan said what the policy calls an “equity analysis tool” would be free due to its open-sourced nature, though the district would incur costs via new job positions implemented as part of the policy. Kaplan said if the district adopts the tool, everyone in the district would be trained on it within three years.
“Because, ideally, that tool is going to be something teachers use as they pick things to use in their classroom,” Kaplan said. “So it’s something from the teacher level to the person who’s helping to adapt curriculum at the central office — everyone knows how to use it.”
Tracy said funds would be set aside from the district’s curriculum budget to purchase or create any supplementary materials the policy deems necessary. As part of this process, Kaplan said curriculum would be vetted for bias.
Board member Gloria Quintero said she was pleased to see the policy go beyond hiring quotas, checklists and enforcement of discrimination laws.
Board member Chris Alleman asked whether the policy would have a metric gauging diversity in the district’s workforce. Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre Co.’s artistic director, referenced what he called a manifesto by We See You White American Theater that states specific percentages for equity objectives. Tracy said the district would aim for proportionality but cautioned against metrics “that could potentially look like a quota.”
District interim Equity Officer Telisa Reed at the April 8 meeting reminded the board that the district has already completed equity work this year, including consulting Gorski.
“Although the policy is just unveiling itself, the work has preceded the policy,” Reed said.
Alleman said the policy wouldn’t work without buy-in from local community members, “so they are excited to move this work forward.”
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