Inclusiveness, diversity and equity update
Oct. 20, 2020
Editor's note: You may listen to the presentation made at the school board meeting, in addition to board member comments, here: Presentation, Oct. 20. You may also see the report, here: Report, Oct. 20
Two district administrators addressed the Bellefonte Area school board at its regular meeting on Oct. 20 to provide an update regarding the district’s inclusiveness, diversity and equity plan that was established earlier this school year. It's an extension to the work former Superintendent Michelle Saylor started before her retirement.
Bellefonte Area Middle School Vice Principal Mike Baughman and Human Resources Director Michelle Simpson have teamed up to coordinate the initiative. Their presentation was broken down into four categories about where they are in the plan, what still needs to be done and what the future holds for the campaign. It included:
- Networking and resources
- Committee meetings
- Professional learning opportunities
- Next steps
Networking and resources
Since last meeting with board, contacts have been enhanced among the district and outside resources. Some include working with experts at Penn State such as Erica Frankenberg and Francesca Lopez – both from the College of Education. Lopez, the Waterbury chairwoman in equity pedagogy, spent time Oct. 16 presenting a session during a professional learning day that exposed district professional staff to more education and information about IDE-type topics.
“They have a lot of expertise and passion for this work, so we’re excited about that and it seems like the more people we talk to, the more people they turn us onto who are extremely generous with their time and resources, and willingness to help us as we move forward,” Baughman said. “It’s really been a great process.”
Peter Montminy is someone who regularly works with the district, as well. A faculty member at Penn State, he also is a psychologist and educational consultant, and served as the Director of Child and Adolescent Services at Penn State’s Psychological Clinic before becoming the founding director of Midstep Centers for Child Development in 1996. According to his website, Montminy later founded A Mindful Village. Most recently, he has been helpful in educating BASD faculty and staff on the equity part of mental health and what that means among different individuals.
The Pennsylvania School Board Association and Equity Literacy Institute have been additional resources for the district with events such as PSBA’s equity summit and a four-part series held this month with Paul Gorski, the founder of ELI. In another effort, Bellefonte Area has collaborated with Seria Chatters, from State College Area School District, who is in the works to create a Centre County equity workgroup. It’s a taskforce that BASD will be a part of, along with other school districts from across the county. While Baughman said state and national resources are helpful, its also just as important to have local resources, so there is understanding of needs in the area.
An IDE committee was established earlier in the school year with 32 members from Bellefonte Area School District’s administration, faculty, staff and school board. So far, they’ve met twice – in September and October, and the committee aims to meet the second Thursday of each month with sessions before and after school.
Simpson said the first meeting came in two, two-and-a-half-hour sessions; the second was in two, one-hour sessions. Ground rules were made, and a respectful and nonjudgmental atmosphere was established, where members were also encouraged to speak openly about IDE-type subjects they feel are important. While the committee’s mission and vision statements are not being made public until all stakeholders are included, Simpson said they’re working to bring in members of the community and student body to the conversations.
The biggest discussions so far, according to Simpson, included information about how to better educate district faculty and staff about IDE-type issues and topics through the use of professional learning.
Professional learning opportunities
At the Oct. 16 professional learning day, Lopez helped facilitate a session with Baughman and Simpson detailing the psychology behind how human brains form biases that affect everyone on the basis of poverty, gender, age and more, and what educators can do to reduce the effect of biases.
“I had people hanging after and talking about how amazing it was and asking if she could come back in some capacity, and she is really willing to work with us moving forward,” Baughman said. “But it’s also about making sure we have a good mix of our employees and people coming in from the outside, so there is buy-in.”
He also said that offering these kinds of opportunities for district employees comes with a “differentiated approach” and to make sure the district is able to move at a pace where people are willing to learn without feeling overwhelmed in the process. To help, the district is taking a systematic and all-encompassing approach to make sure what’s being offered is coordinated and meaningful.
The future of the district’s IDE plan is one that is never-ending, however Simpson stressed that one of the biggest goals currently is focusing on professional learning for employees. This will also come with continuing to compile a list of resources that district faculty and staff can use to help better educate themselves on inclusiveness, diversity and equity. The next professional learning day is in January.
The resources come at a time the 21-Day Equity Challenge takes place, which allows participants to have the opportunity to learn more about equity through a variety of sources such as reading an article, listening to a podcast, engaging in discussion and more.
Additionally, the committee is working on bringing community and student voices to the group, while also crafting a regular newsletter about district IDE updates. That will be overseen by Arlin Roth, the district’s instructional technology specialist.
“We’re continuing to collect data at the district level and that’s going to be one of our next movements once we get the community and students on board,” Simpson said. “We’re being very deliberate in our movement and being very careful not to take on too much at one time.”
*To learn more about IDE at BASD, visit this link: IDE Plan
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD