On August 9, 2021, West Des Moines Community Schools revised its “Equity Statement” that states questions and grievances regarding the issue of equity should be directed toward the school district’s “Equity Coordinator.” On April 27, 2017, the school district announced plans to implement a “Deep Equity” framework. The district’s Board of Education approved a two-year contract worth $129,280 with Corwin Press, Inc. to implement this framework. The school district listed the service as including:
- Deep Equity Leadership Coaching: Deep Equity Leadership Coaching will assist in designing and implementing equity and inclusion initiatives, review equity-related policies and processes, assess potential structural barriers to an inclusive learning environment, and conduct school equity audits and focus groups to assess strategic equity and inclusion outcomes.
- In-School Support for Culturally Responsive Teaching Teams: This includes customized implementation visits designed to support Culturally Responsive Teaching Teams in schools.
- School Board Awareness and Training: The School Board Awareness and Training Session explores the Board’s role in leading for equity.
- Cultural Competence Professional Development for Support Staff: This invites school support staff to consider how they can transform their schools and workplaces to meet the diverse and complex needs of all employees and students.
The school district’s website includes a document that shows the benefits of “Deep Equity” over several years. An immediate benefit includes the ability to “take on difficult topics.” A benefit after a year is for students to be empowered to “speak their truth.”
West Des Moines Community Schools also has the contract with Corwin Press posted on its website. The contract details what the school district receives along with what the district is paying for each service:
- Year 1 – School Leadership Series
- $14,000: Equity Leadership for Administrators Workshop
- $20,000: Phase 1: Tone and Trust; Phase 2: Personal Culture and Personal Journey; Phase 4: Classroom Implications and Applications
- $20,000: Phase 3: From Social Dominance to Social Justice; Dealing with issues of privilege, power, and systemic disparities; Phase 4 Continued: Classroom and Job-Specific Implications and Applications; Phase 5: Systemic Transformation and Planning for Change; Teams design their Implementation plans for the remainder of the current year and into the next school year
- Year 1 – Youth Equity Stewardship Series
- $8,880: Day 1: Personal Culture/Personal Journey
- $8,880: Day 2: Social Dominance to Social Justice
- $8,880: Day 3: Creative Expression / Creative Resistance, and Listen Up! Performance to incorporate Parents and Community
- Year 2 – School Leadership Series
- $22,000: Ongoing support as the CRT teams:
- implement the 5 phases of the work with teachers in their respective buildings
- lead their entire faculty in doing Action Research projects
- engage in Student-Based Action Research in their own classrooms and arenas of work
- report their Student-Based Action Research results to the whole faculty
- share their success and challenges with the work
- $22,000: Ongoing support as the CRT teams:
- Year 2 – Youth Equity Stewardship Series
- $8,880 – Day 4: Leadership in Action
- $8,880 – Day 5: Open Space Dialogue
- $8,880 – Ongoing implementation and team building support as the Youth Leaders:
- work through the Youth Voices Video Guidebook exercises
- begin their roles as Equity Mentors within the school
- Work alongside the CRT teams to impact school reform
Corwin Press explains the objectives of the “Deep Equity” framework on its website. One objective is to expand “the approach and analysis to multiple dimensions of difference, including race, while also focusing on culture, class, gender, language, sexual orientation, special needs, religion, learning styles, and the many other differences that affect educational outcomes.” Another objective is “deepening educators’ understanding of issues of social dominance and social justice in a way that increases their passion for equity without intensifying the resistance caused by the rhetoric of ‘shame and blame.'”
Corwin Press explains that the purpose of “Youth Equity Stewardship” is to “engage your students and staff on a creative journey to become passionate change agents in your school community.” The organization then describes what the “Youth Equity Stewardship” is:
- An experiential, arts-based process focused on engaging youth and adults as advocates for building soulful, inspired and inclusive learning environments.
- An opportunity to gain the youth perspective and a wider diversity lens for recognizing and eliminating educational disparities.
- A mindset centered on growing empathy at the personal and organizational levels.
- A model that builds leadership capacity and multi-generational collaboration to support authentic school improvement efforts.
On June 22, 2020, the school district’s Board of Education approved a “commitment to six actions for equity.” This list includes:
- Schedule anti-racist listening sessions in person, online, and anonymous feedback for students, families, and staff.
- Hire a full-time WDMCS Equity Director that has a rich set of diverse experiences and a clear understanding of issues around racial inequalities.
- Engage in learning at Board workshops and discuss race.
- Create an advisory group of students, families, and staff to review data and guide our efforts.
- Board and leadership will engage in equity audits and data deep dives to identify barriers to opportunity for students of color.
- Review and evaluate the culture and tone of the necessity of SROs in WDMCS.
The school district has an “Equity Timeline” that starts in 2016 and moves to the current day. A major focus is on what the school has accomplished since approving the six actions to enact equity. These accomplishments include hiring an “executive director of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity” and establishing “paid equity leads to lead equity teams at each school building.”
The school district promotes Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) resources from CASEL on its website. CASEL is known for using its material to promote equity in schools throughout the country. In 2020, CASEL published a video titled “SEL As a Lever for Equity and Social Justice.”