Training on race and equity suggested

Group wants MVRHS staff, administrators, and committee members to take courses.

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The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Race, Equity, and Inclusion Group is suggesting that the entirety of school staff, administrators, and school committee members undergo race, equity, and inclusion training. -Lucas Thors

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) is at the forefront of racial and cultural equity and inclusion on-Island, but the core group that heads the school justice initiatives suggests that extensive training could greatly benefit the entire community.

Ena Thulin, member of the MVRHS Race, Equity, and Cultural Proficiency Group, said during an MVRHS school committee meeting Monday that she and the rest of the group have been working hard on a vision of diversity and equity that can be incorporated into the school handbook, and implemented in practice and policy. They are currently working on the final draft of the vision statement.

“At MVRHS, we believe that academic and social excellence depends on a diverse body of staff, students, parents, and caregivers affirming and engaging in the perspectives and backgrounds of our community members,” Thulin said of the group’s mission. “With community and student wholeness as foundational priorities, we work to nurture curiosity, build confidence, and develop passions in a safe and inclusive environment. The intent of our work is to actively examine our role in the systemic inequalities that advantage some and disadvantage others.”

Although the high school has done a lot surrounding race and equity in the past, Thulin said, the group also acknowledges the need to continue strengthening their commitment to those practices each day.

About 15 teachers and school staff at MVRHS were trained last year through the Groundwater Approach course offered by the Racial Equity Institute. Thulin said she is hoping that school committee members will join in that training, along with other school staff. 

“We really think anyone working in education should be taking this kind of training, giving us a common language to speak around systemic inequalities,” Thulin said. “We would like to see the entire staff and school committee trained in this.”

According to Thulin, the Race and Equity group has also been reviewing curriculum, and looking at ways to potentially revise it for greater inclusivity.

One piece of reference material the group is using when looking at the curriculum and the language in the handbook is the Varied Voices resource guide, which provides more diverse literature, content, and subject matter in all curriculum areas, which anyone can access and pull from when creating their coursework for the year. “We are working on editing the student handbook to include more culturally proficient language. It’s going to take a while to do that,” Thulin said.

The group is also looking to create a more diverse school staff, so they have been analyzing the school’s current hiring practices to see if they can expand outreach to a more diverse teaching staff.

She added that Brook Ditchfield of the MVRHS performing arts department is working to orchestrate the first annual social justice and diversity week, and the entire Race and Equity group has been advocating for an official diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator position. 

“We would like to see some of that role be picked up by the administrator of student affairs, but we also see a need for a coordinator for the whole Island,” Thulin said.

Even though the training is expensive, at around $7,000 for 100 people, Thulin said, many people she spoke to who underwent the training described the experience as “life-changing.”

Committee member Amy Houghton suggested bringing the draft version of the vision statement to the School Advisory Council. 

“I don’t think there will be any objection to making the change to the handbook, but I think it would be a great way to expand the reach of getting this word out to other folks as well,” Houghton said.

In other business, Superintendent Matt D’Andrea shared news of testing and reopening guidance for fall 2021 that was recently issued by Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley. “He anticipates we will be full in-person, no safety measures necessary, with the possibility of some masking in the elementary grades. He is going to get that information to us, but the plan is to be fully in,” D’Andrea said. “I don’t anticipate that we would have a testing program.”

D’Andrea noted that a significant number of school staff are already vaccinated, and that number is growing steadily. But he said health guidance for elementary grades will be dictated by whether or not the vaccine is approved for young children.

Currently, the vaccine is not approved for anyone under the age of 12, so D’Andrea said he recommends a “wait and see approach.”

Committee member Roxanne Ackerman asked whether the high school is allowed to require those coming back to in-person learning in the fall to get vaccinated.

D’Andrea said the state is not requiring individuals to be vaccinated at this point, although “it’s certainly something that the school committee could consider as a local policy, although there are lots of challenges around that.”

21 COMMENTS

  1. Not anymore Mr Axel. No longer equality of opportunity but equality of result. In the Soviet Union they said “”all sisters get earrings””

    • Equal opportunity returns equal results.
      We do not have equal genetics, we do not have equal results.
      Some of us are better than others.

    • Andrew– we can always count on you–
      Suppress, suppress, suppress and blame the suppressed.
      How about answering that question from Ms. Norton ?
      Do you have an answer about what Jesus would think about this ?
      You often quote scripture– i am sure you can find some line where Jesus tells us to suppress the poor so the rich can get richer .
      Or maybe you can’t …

  2. I served on the Up Island School Committee years ago and had five children go through the island schools. I know our school system actively promotes and provides enrichment opportunities for our children to learn about our unique island history and to appreciate the diverse cultures mingled together on this small island. Our school committees, parents and staff have worked diligently to provide a safe academically challenging environment for students. We treasure community involvement with the education of our children. We have been fortunate in many ways with what we are able to do.
    As I read this article, I was concerned at the realization that the MVRHS Race, Equity and Cultural Proficiency Group is wanting to work their mission into every aspect of the school that parents and the School Committee have authority over. They want to write their policies and ways to implement them into the handbook, edit the handbook to “include more culturally proficient language,” train (condition) staff and school committee members in identity politics, review and revise hiring practices and create a whole island coordinator position. Not only is this ambitious, but it’s also the takeover ideology of Critical Race Theory assimilating into our established school system. I urge all parents and School Committee members to research CRT and what is taught in the training. This should not be coopting our schools’ curriculum without intensive review of what is being promoted and the qualifications of the people behind the training and resource materials. It’s time for everyone to do their homework.

  3. https://www.aecf.org/blog/racial-justice-definitions
    “Often, race-focused conversations derail because people are using the same terms in different ways. One of the challenges of communicating effectively about race is to move people from the narrow and individualized definition of racism to a more comprehensive and systemic awareness.”

    From the link:
    DEFINITIONS AND CORE CONCEPTS
    EQUITY
    Equity is defined as “the state, quality or ideal of being just, impartial and fair.” The concept of equity is synonymous with fairness and justice. It is helpful to think of equity as not simply a desired state of affairs or a lofty value. To achieve and sustain equity, it needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.
    EQUITY VS. EQUALITY
    Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.
    SYSTEMIC EQUITY
    Systemic equity is a complex combination of interrelated elements consciously designed to create, support and sustain social justice. It is a dynamic process that reinforces and replicates equitable ideas, power, resources, strategies, conditions, habits and outcomes.
    ————————————-
    Using incorrect language and terms to state what is an ignorant and pointless objection to informing our community is… ignorant. In other words, saying something stupid, but with authority, doesn’t make it any less stupid. If you object to CRT, state why. If you don’t “believe” systemic racism is real, that’s a whole other kettle of fish of ignorance and denial of reailty. It’s not that hard to look up definitions and word usage within their proper context, but if one’s motives are to hold in place the systemic racism that infects and affects our everyday lives, right here on MV, then I see the point of those who object, even when they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  4. Ms Diez is technically correct but unfortunately both words are used incorrectly in order to create a different meaning. When people say food equity they mean everyone should have the right for food and there is no such right nor is there an enumerated right for housing or pay. The use of the word equity by liberals is to denote equal shares for all.

    • That’s incorrect, Mr. Engelman. For example, the stimulus payments that went out in equal amounts to all Americans regardless of their income or financial status was not equitable. Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett got the same $1200 check that a senior citizen living on a below-poverty level pension got.

      Imagine three people watching a baseball game from behind a 5′ fence. One is an adult, who can clearly see all the action from where he stands. Next to him is a child, not quite 5′ tall, and next to him, a person in a wheelchair.

      Equity means the full size person still enjoys the game from where he stands, the child gets a step stool that allows her to see over the fence, and the person in the wheelchair gets a ramp to an elevated platform so they can see too. Nothing is taken from the person with enough height to see the game in the first place.

      Here’s a link to a helpful image:https://www.julianabicycles.com/en-GB/file/equality-vs-equity-cartoonpng

      Also, Mr. Engelman, from your posts I know you’re a practicing Christian, and am surprised that you take such a hard line on the “right for food”. WWJD?

  5. Start talking about racial equity and watch all the white fragility come crawling out of the woodwork. Its a shame to witness the hostility towards an attempt to educate the country about the origins and effects of systemic racism. Critical Race Theory is nothing new. Its just become the latest bogeyman du jour employed by the right to vilify and divide people.

  6. What about hiring the right person for the job instead of worrying about diversity. Maybe they should use the approach they use in symphonies where people are hired behind a curtain so you can’t see them then you’re actually getting the best that’s what our students need is the best. More taxpayer money wasted on more feel good programs I have sat through some and I’ve had the best nap of my life.

  7. Focus, Engelman. Training on race equity is the topic. It’s not that I am correct about the misuse of terms by some commenters here, it’s that you still do not/will not get it, but continue to object anyway. It is wrong to object and dismiss reality based distortions and untruths, political bias and racial bias, ignorance, and a need to veer off the subject being discussed.

  8. Equality equals opportunity; Equity equals outcomes. Know the difference and this discussion can be much shorter.

  9. “We are working on editing the student handbook to include more culturally proficient language.” When they need a different language, they are really talking something really sinister.

  10. The white rage that sees something “sinister” in this training is the same rage that defiantly insists there is no such thing as systemic racism. The words, “culturally proficient” are so terrifying and enraging to some that it makes them lose their mind into senselessness.

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