Opinion | Susan Knopf: The road to hell
For the Record
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Believe me, you can’t find folks with better intentions than our hard-working school board members and the professional staff that runs our school district.
That said, they are definitely being hard-headed and tone deaf.
I took some flak for daring to say the Summit School District equity policy needed some work. I wasn’t alone. There were letters to the editor, emails and phone calls. Yet the most glaring policy issues were left intact.
We are not going to raise up anyone by putting other people down. That is definitely not equity.
Most of us understand institutional racism and white privilege exist. Does the culture exist in Summit School District? Maybe. You don’t need to condemn the past to uplift the future. When you indict hard-working educators and administrators saying they are part of a system that practices “language oppression,” you are going to have a tough time gaining anyone’s cooperation.
When you design a program to address these shortcomings and invite “marginalized” people to join your efforts but then exclude them from the evaluation process, isn’t that fostering white privilege?
As you recruit more diverse faculty, you can put some of those professionals on the evaluation committee, but that won’t have the impact of including community members — parents of the students you say you wish to serve.
It’s wonderful that the district says it will address and enhance curricula that tend to ignore the contributions of women and non-white people. But let’s make sure that burden is placed at the district level and not on classroom teachers.
“We need to eradicate racism,” Dillon resident Sean Butson said. “Attributing all education disparities to racism is a mistake.” Butson says economic disparity is the demonstrated leading cause of education disparity.
This policy takes a top-down approach to an issue that requires community engagement. In the May 13 school board meeting, board members and staff said they had numerous meetings with stakeholders. To me, that work doesn’t show up in the policy. If this had been an earnest process, it would have included the people it is intended to address. This is white people self-deprecating in an attempt to elevate minorities. Does that ever work?
We are at a critical crossroads. We have work to do in this county and in our country.
The school board’s Just and Equitable Education policy is creating unrealistic and unrealized fears among white parents amid rumbles of white flight to private schools. Destroying our tax base is definitely not going to help address disparities.
The only way we move forward on this pivotal topic is to enroll everyone in the process. We do that by acknowledging the good work educators have been doing. We tell them we all know we can do more.
We tell them, the district is now going to do a better job supporting educators to uplift students who need a little extra help to fully participate. The district is going to provide those educational resources for all students. We don’t say we are going to give educators one more form to fill out and that we are going to use one more ruler to measure teachers.
Did you ask educators what they need to uplift students? Did you ask community members what they need to help their children?
Staff said the policy is intended to be proactive rather than playing “whack-a-mole.” Education is accomplished by individual educators working with individual students.
I agree with the intention of the policy. I agree a policy is needed. I respect the work, which I understand is years in the making. But to me and to many others in this community, the broad-brush indictment of staff members is ill-considered, and the lack of inclusion of community members of “diverse identities” on the evaluation committee demonstrates a failure to truly commit to the work that needs to be done.
It’s a darn shame the school board missed such a golden opportunity to help our community come together to support all our students. Perhaps they can remove the nonconstructive pieces of this policy and empower our diverse community to participate more fully in the process.
Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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