Edmonds School District principals report significant benefits to having Equity Teams in their schools

Edmonds_School_DistrictAdministrators in the Edmonds School District report the introduction of Equity Teams in their schools has yielded significant benefits to students and staff.

Three principals detailed their experiences with Equity Teams as part of the district’s Equity of Opportunity Report during Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting.

The district has been supporting the Equity Team program in 11 elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. In the program, a committee is formed that focuses on race and on policies and procedures within the school system that need to be adjusted or revised to create a more equitable experience for students. The other goal is to develop a team of people with a level of social competency and understanding to review procedures and policies.

The district provided support with printed materials that detail ways to encourage the discussion of race and a two-day workshop with follow-up sessions.

Mountlake Terrace Principal Doug Johnson said that as a result of having an Equity Team at the school, he and his staff delved into questions and analyzed situations that they would not have done a year ago.

“It got us thinking about things in a different way,” Johnson said.

This year the staff realized that none of the school’s students of Muslim and Sikh faith were going to a sixth grade outdoor education camp. The issue was brought to the Equity Team and nobody understood why this was happening. A team member reached out to a Muslim family and asked the father to discuss the matter.

Johnson and his staff found out that students of Muslim and Sikh faith cannot sleep away from their families. They can’t sleep in a cabin with other children. They have to be with their families, Johnson said.

A parent reached out a couple of years ago to see if the family could get space in the camp but it didn’t work out at that time.

“He was so thankful that we had asked and that the team had been discussing this and we were interested in their faith and their perspective,” Johnson said.

Johnson took the initiative to talk to camp representatives and has arranged it so that next year families can obtain lodging at the camp and stay with their children.

“We’re starting to have these conversations and starting to really dig into the issues of equity in our school,” Johnson said.

Meadowdale Middle School Principal Jennifer Kniseley also applauded the work of the Equity Team in her school. Topics that have for many years have not been talked about were being discussed at school, Kniseley said.

The workshop was an especially powerful experience for Meadowdale Middle School’s staff.

“All of a sudden many of the staff members got educated in a way that brought up a lot and brought awareness and a new language,” Kniseley said. “I could tell the difference immediately … There is this new urgency that I’m so excited about.”

A major change is that many staff members are more comfortable having conversations with students and bringing up issues, Kniseley said.

Lynnwood High School Assistant Principal Mike Piper echoes his colleagues’ comments.

“We’ve having some really powerful conversations,” Piper said.

Issues are now being analyzed through an “equity lens” that probably wouldn’t have been the case years ago, Piper added.

The district currently is in the processing of developing plans for next year, said Assistant Superintendent (Elementary) Justin Irish.

Alderwood Middle and Cedar Way Elementary Schools have agreed to be part of the program next year.

“Every equity team will need to have community partnerships as part of that equity team,” Irish said. “We’re thinking about ‘how do you engage the community in these discussions instead of just having staff members talk about race … We need to push ourselves more.”

The Board also heard from Equity and Outreach Coordinator Karena Hooks and YMCA representatives about MAP (Minority Achievers Program), a partnership with the YMCA. College Place Middle School has MAP, which focuses on academic success and college readiness for students of color/immigrants. MAP is closely aligned with identify development and included curriculum and training. The YMCA provides staff that comes to the school.

Twenty-one students participated in the program at College Place Middle School. Students met 75 times during the school year and had the opportunity to go on 16 field trips that included college visits, guest speakers and volunteer opportunities. This year students took a lot of ownership of the program and set aside time for conversations about current events.

Discussions have begun about bringing MAP to Alderwood Middle School. So it is possible that the school may have both an Equity Team and a MAP program next year.

In other news:

– The district is putting together a preliminary 2016 levy plan. District staff plans to present a detailed proposal on the various Capital and Technology projects under consideration in September with the idea of going to the voters in February 2016.

– The district is moving forward with a new online payment system called eFunds. The online payment system was a pilot project at Alderwood Middle School. In the fall, all district parents will be able to fund their students account online and all students can use eFunds for food service. Middle schools will use eFunds as its Point of Sale system, while high schools will switch to eFunds for the 2016-17 school year.

– The Board unanimously approved the Declaration of Surplus Property on the perimeter of Edmonds-Woodway High School and the sale of the property to the City of Edmonds. The 8,662 square feet of property is needed by the City of Edmonds for roadway improvements. The location is at the intersection of 76th Ave. W and 212th St. SW. The City of Edmonds plans to make improvements to the intersection of 212th Street SW and 76th Avenue W. to improve traffic flow and enhance safety.

– The Board agreed that the district should look into selling the property known as Alderwood South (bus barn) instead of leasing it.

– By David Pan

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