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Superintendent Outlines Diversity And Equity Framework



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To support diversity and equity in the district, Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue outlined “the building blocks of an equity framework” in a presentation at the Board of Education’s October 6 virtual meeting.

The presentation followed a “Resolution on Equity and Diversity” approved by the Board of Education in July, after a local push to examine diversity in the community and school system.

At the time, as reported by The Newtown Bee, Dr Rodrigue said the resolution was “a strong starting point” that showed the district’s intentions, and she highlighted “honest conversations” with students, alumni, and local family members about racism and bias in the Newtown Public School system that contributed to the discussions.

Rodrigue said the resolution highlighted commitments that build on existing practices to support community understanding and language practice to ensure a safer and more equitable system for staff, students, and families.

To support diversity and equity, Rodrigue explained, culture, practice, and leadership will be focuses in the framework.

While the framework is in the process of being shaped and refined, Rodrigue shared in the presentation that it will support change by reviewing current practices that demonstrate safe, inclusive, and respectful environments; developing future practices in alignment with values, beliefs, and commitments outlined in the resolution; and support assessing, modifying, and supporting practices to ensure they promote equity, inclusivity, and respect.

Ongoing assessments and modifications will be needed for programs and practices to assess when they are not working or “somehow miss the mark,” she added.

“It’s an evolution and it is something that we can’t miss,” the superintendent said.

Stakeholder voices will be important in the process, Rodrigue said.

“We need a system,” Rodrigue continued, “that provides a voice for students and families about our programming, our curriculum, and our practices.”

During her superintendent’s report, she shared that 16 district staff and leaders recently took part in an anti-racism workshop.

“Our goal is really to make students feel a sense of belonging and safety,” said Rodrigue, “accepting, and feeling respected as students.”

After highlighting some existing practices the district has in place that support the endeavor, like an anonymous reporting app, Rodrigue said they are building blocks, and “we know we need to do more.”

To support the framework and the effort to support equity and diversity, Rodrigue proposed hiring a diversity and equity coordinator or compliance officer “to work to support students, staff, and families, in finding solutions to issues.” Another future commitment outlined in the presentation is reviewing curriculum and listening to students for input.

“Everyone, I think, is excited to do this work and be involved in it,” said Rodrigue, “but I want you to know there are really great things happening. There are students who really care about each other and support each other, leaders and staff who care about students greatly, how families feel, and who work really hard to build those wonderful relationships we have in Newtown... I just think that like any other district we always need to evolve, and change, and grow, and make it the best possible learning environment for our students.”

Later in the meeting the school board approved an Equity and Diversity policy. Board of Education Secretary Rebekah Harriman-Stites explained the policy codifies what the board put in its Resolution on Equity and Diversity.

The policy was approved after discussion, with member Deborra Zukowski the only vote against the motion. She said she was saddened by the scope of the policy in certain areas and, “I think we could do better.”

Members John Vouros and Debbie Leidlein were not present for the meeting, which was conducted via Zoom and streamed on YouTube.

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