The Wilton School District is facing questions of racial equity head on, through a newly formed District Equity and Inclusion Team, put together by school administration. At last night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Kevin Smith announced that the team met for the first time this week.
Smith described the committee’s purpose as threefold: explore issues of race equity and inclusion in the district; develop plans to provide professional learning on related topics; and look at and improve practices around cultural competence.
Each of the schools is represented on the team by multiple staff members; in addition to the superintendent, others joining the team are Chuck Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum; Karen Brenneke, the district’s humanities coordinator; and a parent from Miller-Driscoll.
Kevin Smith told GOOD Morning Wilton that it was important to have diversity amongst members of the team. He noted that Middlebrook teacher Michael Gordon is co-chairing the district work as well as leading any efforts being done at Middlebrook, and two other non-white staff members attended the meeting as well.
The superintendent said he’s really pleased that there has been wide interest in this area for some time from staff all across the district.
“We’ve had lots of conversations taking place in pockets across the district for some time, The administrators have engaged in some work this year, and we’ve moved forward with the staff. People are hungry for a conversation. So this [first meeting] was the next step in that,” he said.
As for concrete action or initiatives that will be the team’s focus, it’s still too early to define that, Kevin Smith explained. He said the best way to summarize next steps is that the team has “plans to make plans.”
“We’ll be meeting probably in 10 days, and come back to the board with clearer thinking with what those plans are, and what our areas of focus will be. We need to do auditing and other prep work,” he added.
Whatever efforts come out of forming a team to examine race equity and inclusion in the district, there will be thoughtful, slow execution, according to curriculum head Chuck Smith:
“We’ll approach this the same way we approached SEL [social/emotional learning]–do some work around adults first, so that adults feel comfortable with conversations around race and equity, before we start embarking on those conversations with students as well,” he said, adding that for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and into the next, the focus will be on professional learning for adults. “Then we’ll talk about how we roll that out with students,” Chuck Smith added.