In July, the Georgetown School Committee and Georgetown School department received a petition signed by more than 350 members of the Georgetown School community, including current and former students. We also received a series of testimonials recalling experiences that they had while in the school community. That these events happened in our schools and in our community is troubling and cannot be taken lightly.
The Georgetown School Committee is committed to doing everything we can to provide a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for our students, teachers, staff, and administrators. Before we can know what we must do, we must fully understand what we are, and more importantly, what we are not, doing. We look forward to working with stakeholders throughout the community and specifically with the community leaders that brought this petition to our attention to compile an inventory of existing policies, procedures, and curriculum to determine where we are lacking so that we can continue to build an inclusive and anti-racist community in our schools.
Unlike the current challenges we are facing with Covid-19, events like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor reflect a history of problems. The testimonials included in the petition were attributed to members of the Georgetown school community from as early as 2008 — It is clear that this is not just a challenge for now. It was a challenge in our past and will be for our future unless thoughtful and concrete actions are taken now.
In order to understand our starting point, we are committed to exploring what is happening in our district, from curriculum, professional development and training, School Committee policies, and ensuring supportive resources are in place where they are needed, among others. To that end, we need input from the various stakeholders in town, from current and past students, to teachers and administrators and other community advocates. We envision working groups designed to assess where we are and to explore ways that we can improve the climate and the culture in our schools. It is our goal to kick off this effort at our first meeting on November 9, 2020.
A process like this cannot be rushed, and it can also not go on without end. We look forward to hearing from the working groups so that we can establish benchmarks to ensure that the proper and appropriate voices are heard, and so that the necessary changes can be made.
We look forward to the conversation, to working together, and to doing our part to make Georgetown the inclusive community we all deserve and need.
We need to provide a curriculum to students that stresses the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity because it is important that students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings and the broader environment, and that they are being prepared for civic engagement and life experiences with others unlike them. In honoring diversity and creating an environment in which all individuals are respected, curriculum plays a key role. This working group will review existing curricula, see what perspectives and topics (considering race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ability, home situation, socioeconomic status, etc.) are underrepresented, and correct for this underrepresentation through the creation of new units of study and augmentation of existing ones in applicable subject areas.
School Resources & Climate
We believe it is important for students and staff to see themselves reflected and actively included in their physical surroundings and the broader environment–an environment in which diversity is honored and all individuals are respected. To this effect, we need to develop school resources to create a more inclusive school climate for all and increase support for any individuals experiencing identity-based injustice. This working group will evaluate existing student/faculty support resources and the broader school climate to identify potential areas of need, spearhead interventions to promote inclusivity at every level of school functioning (from individual classroom spaces to lunch offerings to school-wide events centering diverse voices/experiences/histories), and institute methods to assess whether interventions are achieving desired outcomes.
Policies that promote equity and inclusion are essential to any school district. Currently we have many policies that align with our goal to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students and staff. It is our desire to improve the overall school climate and to fight discrimination and bullying by providing a clear set of inclusive policies and practices that both staff and students are able to articulate. This working group will review existing policies to identify any general gaps as well as specific policies that are outdated and/or could better reflect our core values of equity and inclusion. If policies require further action, the working group will work with the Governance Subcommittee of the School Committee to enact appropriate changes. If the working group determines that a novel policy ought to be introduced, it will work with Governance Subcommittee to put one in place. Importantly, this working group will also develop ways to increase awareness of policies within school communities, to improve accessibility & visibility of channels for reporting policy violations, to assess student/staff perceived policy enforcement and staff comfort levels with performing interventions consistent with such policies, and to review disciplinary infractions (considering alternative disciplinary approaches).
Training & Professional Development
We cannot effect changes into curricula, school climate, school policies, etc., without appropriately training our staff and supporting them through ongoing professional development. This working group will identify areas of focus for staff professional development, including future trainings that may:
- Be specific to ongoing curricular and policy changes that result from this effort
- Increase awareness of how individual experiences can be shaped by one’s identities (as well as how prejudice and inequity related to race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ability, home situation, socioeconomic status, etc. can manifest in our schools and broader society)
- Provide teachers with skills to create anti-racist and inclusive classroom spaces, to intervene in bias-related incidents, to discuss sensitive topics, and to introduce more diverse voices/experiences/histories into their classroom through direct and indirect exposure
Importantly, this working group will also identify areas for improvement in school programming and student trainings, and from there, make suggestions and implement such suggestions accordingly.
Having a diverse staff is shown to benefit students of color as well as white students. Students of color do better on tests and are less likely to have disciplinary issues when they have at least one teacher of color. White students demonstrate enhanced problem solving, critical thinking and creativity when they have diverse teachers. All students gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter when working and learning with people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. This working group will identify and develop ways for how Georgetown can diversify its recruitment process in order to build a staff community that better reflects the diversity of the Georgetown community and beyond. Possible ways for achieving this include:
– Partnering with local teacher preparation programs, including those with significant minority populations, to offer comprehensive support and mentorship during training and the first few years of teaching
– Broadening recruitment through social media outreach, advertising through local universities, and developing relationships with Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs)
To sign up for a working group and to learn more information, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdp7wHJHY0KYIGNjeGQ5NuygynqraWUk85A6f-dCBaBzSdd8Q/viewform