Advancing Equity and Diversity Across Our District

Advancing Equity and Diversity Across Our District

Dear BPS Families,

I wanted to provide you with an update on our ongoing work to advance equity and diversity across the school district. Since the start of the school year, we’ve taken on multiple new initiatives that we’d like to share with you.

As our partners in learning, our goal is to always keep you informed. Please feel free to reach out to my office or to your child’s principal if you have any questions. We encourage and welcome your feedback as we continue to expand our equity and diversity work.

Thank you,

Superintendent Thomas

Embedding Antiracist Practices and Elevating Diverse Voices

Several parents and community leaders have contacted my office in recent weeks to ask what programming the district will offer to celebrate Black History Month. While we do have several upcoming activities, a few of which are included on the calendar below, we also feel it is important that you are aware of what we are doing to ensure diverse voices are represented and celebrated in our curriculum all year long.

This fall, the Office of Learning and Teaching brought together a team of educators who are committed to embedding diversity in curricula and to implementing culturally responsive practices in our classrooms. This group is also exploring new resources that will aid our teachers in this work.

Under the supervision of the Office of Student Support Services, educators across the district have participated in a variety of professional learning opportunities focused on tackling unconscious biases and better understanding the ways human intersectionality influences student experiences.

In November, the entire district participated in a professional learning program entitled Centering Equity in Schools and Promoting Anti-Racist Practices in Instruction and Engagement. The presentation was designed to assist educators in exploring and understanding their own social identities, the social identities of their students, and how unconscious assumptions and biases can affect teaching and learning. A group of 46 educators dove deeper into this work by participating in an eight-week workshop of the same name.

In 2020, BPS worked with eCornell on a professional learning program for our staff. All principals and executive administrators completed the eCornell Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program and the assistant and associate principals completed a series of unconscious bias and diversity courses. Currently, an additional 100 educators are enrolled in eCornell's Counteracting Unconscious Bias course. These courses prepared our educators to identify the perceptual and psychological processes that impact the way that individuals interact with people who are demographically dissimilar from them. The district intends to seek out more professional learning opportunities of this nature going forward and we have received multiple grants this school year to support those efforts.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Checklist for Educators

During the 2019-2020 school year, the district's Diversity Education Steering Committee, which was established in 2017, created a checklist that educators could use to build more inclusive classrooms. All of our educators completed two trainings on how to incorporate the checklist and use it as a self-assessment tool.

One of the most effective approaches we’ve adopted through this work is to see our classrooms and schools through the lens of our students using the “window or mirror” experiences. Mirror lessons allow students to see themselves and their own life experiences reflected in what they are learning. Window lessons are those learning experiences where students see things that relate to someone else’s life. We want our curriculum, instruction and learning environments to better reflect our students, families and community by providing more mirror learning opportunities. 

Diversity, Race, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee

Launched in the fall of 2020, the School Committee’s Diversity, Race, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee will provide a forum for students, families and community members to provide feedback and guide the important work of advancing equity in our schools.

Last week, a group of high school students were invited to share their thoughts. You can watch a video of that meeting here. We encourage our young people to continue to engage with the subcommittee going forward so that their voices are represented in any actions we take as a district.

The Diversity, Race, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee is chaired by Ms. Cynthia Rivas Mendes, Ward Two School Committee Member. Mr. Thomas Minichiello, Ward One School Committee Member, and Mr. Tony Rodrigues, Ward Four School Committee Member, are also assigned to the subcommittee.

Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

This week, we closed out our job posting for the newly created position of Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This individual will be responsible for guiding efforts and creating opportunities to define, assess, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, educational employment opportunities, and cultural proficiency.

We're thrilled to share that we received dozens of applications and will be screening many qualified candidates in the weeks ahead. We've put together a team of BPS staff members, students, parents/guardians and community members who will help us to review the candidates. Community input is critical in this process as this individual will regularly engage with all of our stakeholder groups.

We will provide more information at the conclusion of the process. As your Superintendent, creating and growing an Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is one of my top priorities and this position is the first step.

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