In October, Yarmouth Schools hosted three professionals who comprised the Equity Review Team provided for us by SchoolWorks. Dr. Sean Larry Stevens was the team leader, joined by Lyn Bajaj and Dr. Charles King. These individuals came to us from different regions of the country to gather data and share their insights on our work in ensuring an equitable learning experience for all students.

The team requested access to a great deal of data and documentation to review prior to their visit. This included demographic information, policies, handbooks, our strategic plan, and assessment data. They also conducted an anonymous online survey that garnered responses from 304 families, 141 staff, and 810 students. These response rates were “off the charts” in comparison with other districts with whom SchoolWorks has worked, according to the team members.

In mid-October, the team spent three days on-site, observing classrooms, interviewing staff, and meeting with focus groups that included staff, students, and family representatives.

Following the review of documents, analysis of the survey responses, and completion of the site visit, the team held a brief summary meeting with members of the District Leadership Team to give us a preview of their findings. In that meeting, the team shared several encouraging observations, including:

  • This was one of the more positive reviews the team had done.
  • It was noted that our work had begun in earnest several years ago and that we were “ahead of the curve” in comparison with many other districts.
  • A very high level of staff, student, and community engagement was observed.
  • It was clear to the review team that we take this work seriously.
  • The district’s mission, vision, and strategic plan reflect a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • The budget development process is highly transparent.
  • Hiring diverse staff members has become more intentional in recent years.
  • Students at the younger level indicated strong awareness and support for all students.
  • Libraries have been audited for the inclusion of a variety of perspectives/characters/authors.
  • All schools have high expectations for academic achievement and behavior.
  • There is a positive adult culture throughout the district, with an intentional focus on equity work.
  • The district’s core values are a consistent focus for most staff and leaders.

The team also highlighted areas that deserve more attention, including:

  • Developing measurable goals related to our equity work.
  • Committing budgetary expenditures for this work, rather than grant funding
  • Ensuring equitable funding for diverse student clubs.
  • Hiring professional staff who more accurately reflect the diversity of the student population.
  • Consistently and effectively addressing (and eliminating) incidents in which students disparage others who are perceived as different – especially members of the LGBTQ+ community. (This point should not be understated; it is at the core of our work and was noted in several places throughout the report.)
  • Providing more opportunities in the upper grades for students to learn about diverse perspectives.
  • Understanding how the pressures of high academic expectations impact emotional well-being.
  • Identifying strategies for staff implementation of practices that promote equity.
  • Developing meeting norms aligned with our core values to help guide student and staff conversations around equity.

This report is being reviewed by the District Leadership Team (DLT) and the Mission Committee, both of which will have input into the strategies employed to address areas of needed improvement. The work to address the items noted in the report has already begun with a DLT review of the recommendations and will continue with school-level Intercultural Leadership Groups (ILG) on January 19. Each ILG will meet with our intercultural consultant, Deb Breiting of the Institute for Intercultural Diplomacy, to review the report and identify potential strategies to address areas identified therein.

It is anticipated that DLT and ILG ideas will lead to impactful implementation of programming and protocols that will lead to safer, more equitable schools for all students. The Mission Committee will hear reports from these groups at their monthly meetings to ensure that the School Committee is engaged in this critical work.

The full report is linked here.

To read the article on Yarmouth Schools’ website, visit this link.

Curious to learn more about SchoolWorks’ Equity Reviews?

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