In the fall of 2014, the ANCS Governing Board adopted a multi-year strategic plan for our school (you can find a summary of the plan and what’s been accomplished under it over the past few years on our website here). Among the priority goals of the plan has been a focus on increasing the racial and economic diversity of our school as it has shifted, especially economically, since the early years of our school. I’ve written in this blog on several occasions about why that’s been an emphasis for us–namely because we recognize the educational, social, and civic benefits that come from creating a school in which students learn with and from classmates whose lived experiences are different than their own in line with our mission and values. In this post I want to spend a bit more time talking about how we’ve been addressing this goal, with most of the attention on a “diversity and equity action team” that is hosting a community open house tonight from 6:30-7:30 at the elementary campus.
In considering the shifting demographics of our school over time, the board and school’s leadership recognize that the reasons for these changes are multi-layered. On a policy level, our board took the steps of widening the school’s attendance zone to include the nearby neighborhood of Summerhill and advocated for and adopted a weighted student enrollment lottery, both of which increase the likelihood of a higher percentage of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds enrolling at ANCS. We also know that our classroom practices must support a diverse range of learners, so we’ve undertaken extensive work–first with outside facilitators, then by building capacity to lead this effort from within–to equip our teachers and staff with the mindset and skills to create classrooms and campuses that are responsive to the cultural experiences of all of our students. Through common readings, trainings, and ongoing professional learning, we are becoming better at recognizing and addressing inequities in teaching and learning at ANCS.
Beyond the board and faculty/staff, we know that there is a need to engage our full school family in work towards our goals, so last year, we created a “diversity and equity action team” (we’ll call it DEAT for short) with parents/caregivers, teachers, and board representation to help provide leadership in this area. There was an initial interest meeting held last fall, and from there, those that were interested spent last year getting grounded in the state of diversity and equity at ANCS and identifying priority areas for the school. As we’ve started the new school year, the DEAT established a trio of co-chairs from the faculty and parent body and is looking to grow from the core team into a set of task force groups focused on specific needs that build on the work already happening at the board and faculty level:
- Further learning for team members about leading equity work
- Communications and messaging to increase awareness about the team and ANCS’s diversity and equity goals
- Equity analysis of parent and family engagement at ANCS
- Learning opportunities about issues of equity and inclusion for families and points of collaboration with faculty/staff
- Community-building in parts of ANCS’s attendance zone historically underrepresented in enrollment at our school
Last month, I provided an update about the DEAT at parent coffees and our regular monthly board meeting, and tonight we are hosting a community open house where members of the ANCS community can come learn more about the team, ask questions, and plug into one of the team’s task force groups. The meeting will be from 6:30-7:30 in the elementary campus library. If you cannot make it but would like to connect with the team, contact the DEAT’s co-chairs: Tilifayea Griffin, ANCS interim equity support coordinator (email@example.com), Carla Wells, ANCS elementary campus parent (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Lisa Flick Wilson, ANCS middle campus parent (email@example.com). I appreciate their willingness to step up and help guide us in this important work!