Inclusiveness, diversity and equity update
Sept. 8, 2020
The topic of inclusiveness, diversity and equity isn’t one that’s only discussed at Bellefonte Area School District – it’s a topic that has the attention of others from across Centre County. That’s why district administrators involved in the IDE plan have been regularly working with area professionals versed in this field to help bring a better understanding of it to Bellefonte Area schools.
“We figure the more we can make this a countywide issue than just an individual school issue, then the more success we’re going to have and more of an impact we’re going to make,” said Mike Baughman, vice principal of Bellefonte Area Middle School who is helping lead the district’s IDE campaign.
At the regular Bellefonte Area school board meeting on Sept. 8, Baughman gave a presentation regarding an update to the district’s inclusiveness, diversity and equity plan, which he is helping to lead with Human Resources Director Michelle Simpson. The two have met regularly with Seria Chatters, the director of diversity and inclusivity for State College Area School District that Baughman said has helped the district set a foundation in its “exploratory phase” for guidance and resources.
Interim superintendent Tammie Burnaford said that along with meeting with Chatters, the district also plans to work more with Heather Bennett from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; and other equity consultants from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
The district is also following its tentative timeline for the school year, though Baughman stressed that the main focus is on doing things right, rather than rushed.
“We have obviously been paying a great deal of attention to the timeline that was set forth and we also realize as we go through these processes … if they’re more involved than we initially thought, then we’re not going to rush through things just to follow the timeline," he said. "Especially with matters like this, it’s important we do them the right way. We have been working hard to get this off the ground and continue what was started in this district, and we’re excited about it and ready to keep moving forward.”
With 32 responses from district employees from across many walks of life and different areas of work, an IDE committee has been established to help oversee some of the initiatives. That includes members from the district’s administration, professional staff and support staff. The first committee meeting will be held Sept. 22 with a goal to identify a mission, vision and other aspects of the group.
During an opening day event on Aug. 17, Sam Richards was welcomed as a guest speaker at Bellefonte Area School District. Richards is a teaching professor of sociology at Penn State who talked about inclusiveness, diversity and equity with district employees. According to the Penn State College of Liberal Arts website, Richards is “the instructor of the largest race, gender and cultural relations course in the United States.” With more than 760 students each semester and a 25-year legacy, the course was the subject of an Emmy Award-winning television broadcast called, “You can't say that." The course is streamed live every Tuesday and Thursday, here: Course
“He talked to the entire staff from the entire district, and did a nice job of outlining some of the social and political climates that we’re dealing with, and took questions from teachers and provided multiple prospective from the issues,” Baughman said. “It allowed us to take another step forward to equip ourselves in navigating this complex social situation and (better learn) how to response to it, how to support our kids and navigate them.”
*Photo of Chatters provided by SCASD and used with permission. Photo of Richards provided by Penn State and used with permission
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD