LET'S GET REAL NEWSLETTER

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REAL COALITION UPDATE

SCHOOL YEAR 2021-2022

 

We have been telling the REAL story regarding Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership since the District Equity Audit was published back in 2018. Our equity initiative required the school community to embark on a series of difficult and uncomfortable conversations, ranging from one-on-one meetings to classroom talks, community forums, and school and districtwide professional development. The result? We have a systematic approach to address district-wide equity efforts guided by the REAL Coalition -- a committed group of administrators, staff, students, families, and community members. Their names and emails are provided at the end of this report.

 

The REAL Coalition started as a small Steering Committee and has grown to 58 participants this year. Our focus is on 6 goal areas. In this issue of Let's get REAL, we highlight examples of progress on each of the goals along with challenges we are facing. Our hope is to raise awareness of the steps taken to build on our assets and the barriers faced to ensure racial equity and equity for all. Slowly, sometimes imperfectly, our efforts seem to be working and we want to share this information with the community.

 

The REAL Coalition is here for you and will respond to your requests for additional information and support.

 

OUR PURPOSE

"Underlying all of our work in the district is a belief in equity and inclusion for all students, their families, and staff. In particular, this district is committed to racial equity and we are committed to being actively anti-racist. As we instruct and counsel students throughout the year, work with colleagues, and collaborate with families and caregivers, we consider how our efforts, actions, conversations, and intentions can be based on a foundation of racial and social justice - a foundation of equity. This work is fundamental to our mission as educators and human beings."    

- excerpt from Superintendent Gutekanst’s remarks at the opening of school on 8-31-2021

 

THE REAL PLAN: REPORTING PROGRESS ON 6 GOAL AREAS

Members of the REAL Coalition meet several times a year to check in on the district’s progress toward prioritized goals. Action steps in each of the 6 goal areas can be found on our website at these links:

 

Policies and Practices in support of equity

Professional Learning in support of equity

Curriculum and Instruction in support of equity

Hiring and Employment Practices in support of equity

Culture and Climate in support of equity

Communications and Community Engagement

 

Regarding Policies and Practices, the district is attuned to the ongoing controversy and confusion about CRT (Critical Race Theory). In response, we are circulating a position statement on K-12 Curriculum and Critical Race Theory from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents because it reflects our own thinking and practices. In addition, we are collaborating with the Needham Human Rights Committee on a community forum this spring on what CRT is and is not.

 

In another area of policy and practice, the district is reviewing school discipline and the range of responses to behavioral incidents in our classrooms. The superintendent signed a new Memorandum of Understanding between the public schools and the Needham Police Department. We are addressing disproportionality through restorative practices in order to build a more inclusive and supportive school environment for all of our students. We aim to equip our staff with the skills needed to implement culturally appropriate responses to behavior and conflict, and help heal individuals, groups, and the community when they experience bias-based incidents or harm.

 

The next goal area, Professional Learning, is key to our success with implementation of the REAL Plan. The district is providing a wide variety of workshops, building-based training, and coaching. The DEI website that launched last year is an invaluable resource for our educators and the community. Several schools are offering Book Study groups using texts such as "Equity By Design" by Katie Novak and Mirko Chardin and "Street Wise" by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan. Many teachers are participating in courses from IDEAS (Initiatives for Developing Equity and Achievement for Students) and more staff are developing the knowledge and skills to strengthen and expand the new K-5 Racial Literacy curriculum.

 

Moving forward, we are designing a cohesive professional learning program aligned to the district's strategic plan to guide our equity work for the long term.

 

The district's goal for Curriculum & Instruction is to provide all students with equal access to academic content and learning opportunities regardless of their culture, background, identity, strengths, challenges, and abilities. To this end, the district developed a Roadmap for Becoming A Culturally Responsive Educator which is being used to provide clear and consistent expectations in the four pillars of instructional practice: "know yourself, know your students, know your practice, know your content." An example of the application of the Roadmap is: Resources for Developing an Anti-Racist/Bias Curriculum in the NHS History Department. Together with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate strategic plan, the Roadmap is a framework for equity in the Needham Public Schools.

 

To assist teachers with helping students understand and respect diversity, the district developed explicit racial literacy instruction. This tool is being used to implement the new K-5 Racial Literacy curriculum in all of the elementary schools.

 

The following programs are continuing since they provide needed supports and students are making academic and social/emotional gains: Summer Bridge, Launching Scholars, and Castle Program.

 

To ensure that our Hiring & Employment Practices are equity focused, the HR department set a goal to increase the number of qualified BIPOC staff (black, indigenous and people of color). Thanks to a Teacher Diversification Grant from the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, we are able to prepare additional BIPOC employees for teaching positions in the district and we will be able to create a pathway for our BIPOC students to pursue future teaching careers. We provide a training program, "Hiring for Equity," to enhance our recruitment efforts and attract more diverse candidates. Our retention of current staff of color is helped by the town's support group known as Stronger Together. Next steps for the HR department include a reset on the evaluation process with a focus on equity

 

The goal for Culture and Climate is to foster a healthy and inclusive school environment through social and emotional learning at all grade levels and community-building programs like "One Day 2022: Country of Origin." The SEL Committee and new District Mental Health Team are using the MTSS framework and SHAPE assessment to develop resources supporting classroom and school-wide practices that are trauma informed, universally designed, developmentally responsive, and equity focused. Climate is measured with the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, the MGH Mental Health Screening, and social emotional check-ins. The results by subgroups help us monitor those who have historically been marginalized such as the LGBTQ community, English Language Learners, children with special needs, and respondents by race. This spring, climate measures will be included in the District survey of parents, students, and staff.

 

 

REAL COMMUNICATIONS: RACE, EQUITY, ACCESS, LEADERSHIP

Opening the door to talk about equity for all has not been easy. Graffiti with hate speech has been written on school walls and not everyone feels welcome in our schools. But the district is continuing to push ahead. Students now are leading conversations and interventions. We are bringing attention to issues that were once under the radar. As we see the barriers to equity, we are able to become clearer in our intentions and actions. Soon we will benefit from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Comprehensive District Review through the lens of equity. The DESE report is expected this spring. We also have a Collaborative Initiative with the Needham Education Foundation that will help build momentum and fund ongoing equity efforts across the district.

 

We hope this issue of Let's get REAL has sparked your interest in the Needham Public Schools equity work and raised some questions for you. Please visit the district's Equity Website and reach out to any of the members of the REAL Coalition. We welcome your comments and your participation in moving the district forward to providing equity for all.

 

 

REAL COALITION: STUDENTS

Adonai Baptista (class of 2025)

Ananya Sharma (class of 2025)

Betina Mendes (class of 2024)

Boyoung Paik (class of 2024

Campbell Keyes (class of 2024)

Ida Miles (class of 2023)

Lia Santiago (class of 2023)

Lilly Santos (class of 2024)

Lloyd Akai-Dennis (class of 2023)

Noah Goldstein (class of 2023)

 

REAL COALITION: SCHOOL STAFF

Andy Garlick, Principal, Broadmeadow

Brittani LaPorte, Teacher, Eliot

Bryce Worthy, Teacher, NHS

Craig Brown, Teacher, Pollard

Deborah Seri, Teacher, Mitchell

Elise Morgan, Curriculum Coordinator

Elizabeth Brown, Teacher, NHS

Elyssa Schneider, Teacher, High Rock

Emily Charton, Assistant Principal, Eliot

Gabe Swanger, Teacher, NHS

Gabriella Gonzalez, Teacher, Mitchell

Joni Magee, Teacher, NHS

Julia Manna, Teacher, Mitchell

Karen Hwang, Teacher, Broadmeadow

Kathleen Hubbard, Curriculum Coordinator

Maria Espinoza, Teacher, Newman

Mary Bashir, Teacher, NHS

Monica Carrillo, Teacher, NHS

Monique Vullo, Counselor

Pierre Jean, Assistant Principal, NHS

Rafael Martinez, Teacher, Pollard

 

REAL COALITION: PARENTS / COMMUNITY MEMBERS

Anna Giraldo Kerr, Parent, Pollard

Beth Seidman, Parent, Newman

Erika Buckley, Parent, METCO

Jenn Scheck-Kahn, Parent (SEPAC)

Jennifer Howard Schroeder, Parent (NHRC)

Lauren Schuller, Parent, Eliot

Liz Lee, Parent, School Committee

Natalie Ho, Parent

Rebecca Waber, Parent (SEPAC)

Tina Burgos, Needham Human Rights Committee

 

REAL COALITION: STEERING COMMITTEE

Alex McNeil, Assistant Superintendent, HR

Alison Coubrough-Argentieri, Assistant Principal, NHS

Andrea Vargas, Assistant Principal, Newman

Beth Pinals, Consultant, CCOR

Brooke Kessel, Chair, K-8 Social Studies Department

Chris Dancy, Teacher, High Rock School

Dan Gutekanst, Superintendent

Diane Simmons, Director, Strategic Planning

Jamie Singelais, Director, English Language Learners

Joanne Allen-Willoughby, Director, METCO and REAL Coalition Chair

Karen Bourn, Principal, Eliot

Leslie Smart, Assistant Director, METCO

Maggie Charron, Assistant Principal, High Rock

Mary Lammi, Assistant Superintendent, Student Support

Stephen Plasko, Chair, NHS Social Studies Department

Terry Duggan, Assistant Superintendent, Student Learning

Tom Denton, Director, Guidance

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