In January 2022, parents at Rogers Elementary School received an update reminding parents that the schools “professional goals have been tailored to diversity, equity and inclusion” that included links to a social justice survey given to 5th graders that week.
Message from Superintendent McDavid About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Good afternoon, Berkley Schools community,
Today our staff engaged in professional learning while our children had the day off of school. The focus of our staff learning this afternoon was diversity, equity and inclusion. While this topic has been in the news lately, it is something our District has been learning about and working on for a long time.
In August 2017, I spoke to staff on our opening day about one of our District’s core values: we are a welcoming place for all students, from all backgrounds, with no exceptions. That core value was clear to me when I joined this District as a high school English teacher more than a decade and a half ago. At that time I was impressed with the level of support afforded to all students. I was also impressed that students supported each other in ways I had rarely seen before.
This afternoon, we continued our learning on diversity, equity and inclusion as we welcomed keynote speaker, Dr. Bryant T. Marks, Sr., from the National Training Institute on Race & Equity, to provide a virtual hour-long session to all staff members. Dr. Marks is a researcher, trainer, award-winning educator, and former member of the Obama Administration. He is the Founder and Chief Equity Officer of the National Training Institute on Race and Equity and a tenured professor of Psychology at Morehouse College. Between 2017 and 2020, Dr. Marks provided implicit bias training to over 45,000 employees and volunteers in law enforcement; city, county, and federal government; corporations; education; and healthcare. We asked Dr. Marks to present to our entire staff, including secretaries, custodians, paraprofessionals, administrative staff, and teachers. He specifically focused on continuing our knowledge of implicit bias in schools.
Berkley School District is committed to keeping diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the forefront of creating an environment where all staff, students and community members feel a sense of belonging. In order to work toward this goal, over the past few years we have embarked on a number of initiatives. Our staff members have been offered training in areas such as cultural competence, trauma informed teaching, welcoming and inclusive classrooms, sexual orientation and gender identity, safe and supportive schools for transgender students, understanding ADHD, anxiety and autism spectrum through a new lens, and supporting English language learners. Berkley High School partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools in 2016. This organization’s focus is to increase equitable enrollment in rigorous courses. For us, this means we have been working with the EOS team to identify students of color or low-income students who qualify for, but are missing from Advanced Placement courses. We have seen great success with that work. In addition, schools have started to hold panels with students to allow the students to share their experiences with us, so we can learn from them. This spring, we will be investing $100,000 in books to continue to diversify our classroom and media center libraries, District-wide. This school year, 16 teachers are piloting a new elementary social studies curriculum, InquirED’s Inquiry Journeys, to ensure the lessons taught are culturally responsive, inquiry-based and align with national standards.
Many diversity, equity and inclusion goals and strategies are embedded in the new strategic plan proposal. The adoption of that plan was paused in March of last year to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The District hopes to adopt this strategic plan in 2021 and officially embed these new DEI goals into the work that is being done daily.
As a District we work hard to lift up, encourage and support each and every child, to make sure everyone feels loved. All are welcome here no matter the color of their skin, who they love, how they identify, if or how they worship, their family income, where they live, what they look like, their abilities or what language they speak. And, in truly welcoming people we want to know their stories. We want to know what’s important to them and what hurts them and where they come from and how they think. We want to understand and appreciate and celebrate our differences. In truly welcoming someone we want the best for that person. We want that person to live their life to the fullest extent of their potential.
Because we are an institution of human beings we will fall short of perfection. Sometimes we’ll fall short of even being good. Our goal is to continuously learn and improve. If we learn something new today, it can impact our actions and choices tomorrow. We will learn and keep trying because that’s what we do and that’s what we ask our students to do. We’ll also need your help to do this. We welcome authentic and honest conversations about student, staff and community experiences. We hope you will engage with us in this important work.
To see the depth and breadth of our work around DEI, please visit our new webpage. We will continue to update this page with new staff learning and building initiatives, resources for our families on how to engage with DEI discussions with children, and eventually, a place for families to find learning opportunities and events to attend.
I hope this message today paints a picture of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in our daily work. I hope it reassures you of our goal of cultivating a place of belonging for all. I hope it solidifies that our school district has a focus on honoring each and every child for who they are. I also hope you will join us on this journey of continuous learning and growing.
A staff member in the district also reached out to us in May of 2021. Because of fear of professional retaliation, they asked to remain anonymous. Below is what they told us, verbatim.
I am a teacher. The staff at my school has been having training sessions this year that have been labelled as “anti-racism training”. The training has been done by a consulting company called Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS). The stated goal of the trainings is to improve the participation of minority and poor students in AP classes. The trainings started out that way at least. Sessions have now turned to full on Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter sessions. The presenter from EOS, Kim Edwards, consistently makes insulting comments about Republicans/conservatives turning our “training” into mini political rally. In addition she makes insulting comments about white people and men, i.e. racist and sexist. I believe the district has spent over $100,000 on these “trainings” and it is a colossal waste of money not to mention the toxic nature of CRT. During 20-21 school year the sessions have been on Zoom and were recorded.
The district’s diversity, equity and inclusion web page is here.