March 26, 2021

Avery Parents for Racial Equity
March 26, 2021
Zoom conference

Attendees: Shane Williamson, Elisa Tomich, Nytasha Taylor, Christine Keller, Brian Keller, Jennifer Jones Patrick, Julia Maki, Gayle Flavin, Christine Novalis, Amanda Vader, Amy Estlund, Lydia Wood, Ingrid Deetz, Danna Lippold

Agenda:

Shane Williamson, first Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at WGSD, to speak

One year since pandemic declared - for better for worse

Look ahead to next year and future of equity group

 

The equity meeting began with an ice breaker, For Better For Worse, where each attendant stated something good and something bad as a result of the pandemic.

Dr. Shane Williamson started her role as Director of Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the WGSD on October 5. She spoke about plans for this year and the future, what has been accomplished this year and some of the challenges faced. She formerly worked at Lindenwood University. Several professional learning initiatives for teachers have been started. The teachers at each school participated in a 3 hour session in August and October, the first using resources from the antidefamation league and the second using ABAR resources and a trained facilitator to help identify inequities and identify the cycle of socialization. In January/February teachers participated in another 3 hour session focusing on systemic oppression globally, in the metro area, and in Webster Groves.

The teachers are grouped by their elementary school to identify equity challenges in their own schools and to come up with a solution to one of the challenges they identified. Some examples could be diversifying books, including inclusive artwork on the walls, etc.

All staff, including the board, custodians, administrative staff, etc. have also participated in a 2 hour session discussing inequities and bias.

Dr. Williamson met with Dr. Adams, Director of Learning, to discuss long term equity plans. Working on a four year plan for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th year teachers.

The Social Studies curriculum has been in the process of revision for awhile (K-8). Changes focus on teaching history accurately and making sure kids see themselves in history all year long. There will be training for teachers because the content is new and to mitigate any discomfort with the material.

All schools participated in Black History Month in various ways (door decorating, poetry/artwork, read alouds)

At the high school level, a principal’s advisory group has been formed consisting of high school students, that meets once a month, to keep the administration informed of areas of inequity and work in the classrooms as a bridge between administration and students.

At Hixson/Steger, Dr. Mayes has put together an Equity Taskforce to investigate and address equity issues. Givens also have a culture and equity group. They can meet with families who need support and help teachers navigate challenging situations as they arise.

Effort has been put into figuring out inequity issues with virtual and asynchronous learning. Identifying problems (slow wifi, not logging on, not asking for help when needed) and finding solutions.

The Food Pantry is open to all WG families. Families can put up things they need, or have them delivered. Every effort is made to get families what they ask for and need. Spread the word!

Overall, teacher feedback in response to trainings and changes has been positive. Education about systemic racism in St. Louis was positively received and was information that many did not know.

ABAR (anti-bias anti-racim) passed with full board approval.

Questions Dr. Williamson fielded:

How can equity groups be most useful?

How can equity groups be useful, but not overstep?

Could parents participate in a version of the training the teachers are doing?

Can kids participate in NCCJ (anytown program)

What have been the biggest challenges/surprises to the DEI position, so far?

  • In regard to the changing social studies curriculum, there have been many angry, racist, generally awful responses on surveys. Shows a need for more education to explain the goals of the changes to eliminate misunderstandings.

 

There are continuing discussions regarding the redrawn elementary school boundaries and the lack of diversity at some schools. There is a push to have elementary schools interact more so there is more of a connection between elementary students at all elementary schools, rather than just their home school. Ideas include, sports clinics, plays utilizing the auditorium at Givens, etc.

Thank you, Dr. Williamson.

After Dr. Williamson’s presentation, the group was polled to see if there is an interest in continuing the book club discussions. General consensus is yes, with a focus on podcasts, articles, reports, movies, rather than books.

The future of the equity group, and the need for new leadership was discussed.