Attention to equity, inclusion in Dublin City Schools continues

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group

As Dublin City Schools leaders embark on a plan to address issues of equity and inclusion, a group of parents already has weighed in with critiques.

Parent Tripti Agarwal said on Oct. 12, she sent a letter from parents to school board members, Superintendent Todd Hoadley and several other administrators about equity and inclusion initiatives. The letter had 43 signatures when it was sent, she said.

Deputy Superintendent Tracey Deagle said she appreciates the research and thought that parents put forth in preparing their letter of advocacy. Several of the items outlined in their recommendations have been incorporated into the work of the district's equity and inclusion committee, she said.

Tracey Deagle is deputy superintendent for Dublin City Schools.

"I see many of the recommendations, and our actions steps as a committee, requiring a long-term commitment to equity and inclusion," she said. "Our school leaders are invested in this work and process and will incorporate stakeholder feedback and input along the way."

Requests in the letter include that the district appoint an administrator dedicated to overseeing district diversity, equity and inclusion issues from a neutral position and that the bullying reporting line be expanded to add microaggressions, including those in casual conversation, teacher comments, discipline concerns or curriculum issues.

Agarwal said the letter touched on the same topics as those outlined in a change.org petition from Dublin students. The petition, titled “We demand equality and inclusivity for all students,” had 2,664 signatures as of Oct. 15. Requests included creating policies regarding racism and discrimination, diversifying staff members, mandating staff and student education addressing such topics as implicit bias and cultural sensitivity and hiring diversity-and-inclusion officers.

Agarwal said the district needs to establish a timeline for diversity-hiring efforts and report rates of diverse applicants in job applications and in interviews.

“There should be some defined metrics,” she said.

She also said the district needs baseline data to inform all of its equity-and-inclusion goals.

In addition, the district needs to revise the student handbook in relation to discrimination of sexual identity or expression, especially issues for transgender students, including bathroom use and staff members' use of students’ official names instead of students’ chosen names, Agarwal said.

The district is “really behind the times,” she said.

Although Deagle said the district hasn't "made any determinations" about adding an officer or administrator to oversee initiatives surrounding equity and inclusion, administrators have outlined other steps they plan to take.

Future actions will include professional learning for staff, a look at district processes in the classroom and beyond, and exploring new ways to make the district staff more diverse, she said.

District administrators on Sept. 29 overviewed areas of focus for equity and inclusion during a presentation to the school board.

The more children feel represented in the classroom, the more successful they will be in their learning, said Deagle.

“Culturally responsive teaching is one of the most powerful tools to closing student-achievement gaps,” she said.

The district’s equity-and-inclusion initiatives include education for staff members.

Jill Reinhart, executive director of teaching and learning for the district, said a professional-learning session slated Nov. 3 for staff members would be related to equity and inclusion. The day will include a keynote speaker and professional learning tools on such topics as implicit bias, she said.

Jill Reinhart is executive director of teaching and learning for Dublin City Schools.

The district also will conduct a classroom-equity audit, Reinhart said. The audit will examine such components as course offerings, hiring practices, the classroom environment and access students have to courses, she said.

District leaders also are planning ways to ensure the diversity of district staff members more closely matches student representation, Deagle said.

“That’s a national challenge,” she said.

According to the Sept. 29 presentation, the plans for diversity included identifying and monitoring minority applicants, including diverse and minority staff members in building-level interview teams whenever possible, and giving priority to referrals from staff and community members for diverse candidates for interviews.

District leaders also plan to use online organizations specializing in diversity recruitment and visit historically Black colleges and universities.

District leaders are planning other opportunities to discuss goals with the community. 

For example, a newly formed group of Dublin City Schools parents and staff members is slated to meet at the end of this month to discuss subjects that will include equity and inclusion.

The district’s Parent Academic and Student Learning Council includes one to two parents from each building, Reinhart said. Some parents volunteered, and others were recommended by building PTO presidents, she said.

The new group will meet virtually Wednesday, Oct. 28, Reinhart said.

Although the meeting will not be public, the work of the committee will be publicly shared, she said.

Reinhart said she had wanted to organize such a group for years. Topics will be driven by the conversations parents want to have, she said.

The group's purpose is to have quarterly meetings to provide a forum for an ongoing dialogue focused on teaching and learning, she said.

"Equity and Inclusion will be part of the conversation because it is a topic that our parents have indicated they are interested in learning more about as it relates to our action steps shared at the BOE meeting," Reinhart said.

Chrissy Foster, a parent who signed the letter Agarwal sent Oct. 12, said she believes the district “is on the right track” regarding initiatives for equity and inclusion. Still, she said, more work must be done.

Foster said the district needs an administrator focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion to provide a staff member dedicated to meeting measurable goals and creating accountability.

The district's plans lack follow-through and measurable goals, she said.

However, Foster appreciates how dedicated teachers in the district have been to equity and inclusion, she said.

“They are really picking up the slack,” she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah