February 7, 2022

Avery Parents for Racial Equity
February 7, 2022
Zoom meeting

In attendance:  

Jennifer Patrick, Danna Lippold, Julia Maki, Jessica Gunther, Libby Dowdall, Dr. Hannah Peterson, Dr. Shane Williamson, Allison Webster, Courtney Shaeffer, Heath Borders, Christine Novalis, Gayle Flavin, Amanda Vader,  Elisa Tomich. 

Agenda: 

The meeting took place over zoom with 14 attendees. Elisa welcomed the group. Everyone introduced themselves and shared something surprising about themselves, or their favorite thing about our community. 

Dr. Shane Williamson, the school district’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, gave an overview of the work she’s done since her arrival in Fall 2020. Here’s just a snapshot: the district has increased ABAR training for teachers and expanded it to include all staff. A support group for administrators of color has been created. A support group for  LGBTQ+ staff is in the works. Schools administered a survey to students in third through 12th grades to measure social emotional learning as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. Schools are using the survey data to set priorities. 

The district has also created a systemwide bias incident reporting system. To learn more, and to see how to report: https://www.webster.k12.mo.us/Page/23813

Also - there’s now a way to recognize individuals, schools, businesses, and organizations who are supporting a culture of dignity. To nominate, go to : https://www.webster.k12.mo.us/Page/23953

Dr. Williamson provided legislation updates. A number of bills in the Missouri Legislature threaten to censor teachers by prohibiting any mention of race or gender issues in the classroom, and could result in legal action against teachers if particular words or concepts are discussed. This threatens the new social studies and other  curriculum that has allowed Avery students to be exposed to various perspectives. This group has always advocated for more inclusive curriculum. If you want to keep it, please testify in opposition to bills that threaten it. Here’s how to track legislation: 

Missouri House Bills/Hearings

MO Senate Bills

MO Senate Hearings

How to support teachers right now – it would be helpful for parents to thank them for teaching their kiddos about multiple perspectives, and embedding equity into lessons. She also said the high school and all schools are working to make gifted programs and AP/dual credit classes more inclusive.  Heath asked whether elementary school suspensions had been stopped. Dr. Williamson said no, but they are rare - three this school year throughout all elementary schools. Dr. Peterson said they happen only in extreme circumstances where violent behavior is repeated. 

Elisa suggested that the equity group resume the Diversity Book Fair with EyeSeeMe. Everyone seemed in favor. It’s been two years since we’ve held it. With books being banned into too many places, there might be even more demand this year from our parents. Elisa asked for volunteers to help organize:  Jen Patrick, Libby Dowdall, Heath Borders, Julia Maki and Jessica Gunther volunteered. Dr. Peterson will provide dates that could work. 

Julia Maki volunteered to talk with parents at Kindergarten information night. 

Elisa reintroduced the thought of revisiting this group’s mission and vision. It’s been difficult to get traction this year. In earlier meetings, several attendees had questioned the need for a racial equity group at a school whose Black, Hispanic and Asian populations have dropped considerably due to redistricting. Heath said this is why we must stay focused on racial equity. Elisa asked whether more parents would be engaged if we expanded our focus to include LGBTQ+ and other groups. 

 

Between now and next meeting, please visit this link and provide input that will determine the direction this group will take. https://padlet.com/elisatomich/qmdig7lj014rpag

The questions you’ll answer: 

  1. What needs within our school community could/should this group address?
  2. What needs within our school community are going ignored
  3. Think of your time at Avery - what specific things have made you feel a sense of belonging? 
  4. Any experiences that made you feel you didn’t belong, or feel disconnected? What makes others feel this way? 

 

Future meeting dates: 

  • Tuesday, March 15  7-8 pm 
  • Monday, April 4  7-8 pm