July 3, 2020
Dear PSD staff and families,
Equity and education are partners in working toward our mission to “Educate Every Child, Every Day.” The following is information related to equity, diversity, and inclusion and the work that is ahead of us as a community. We are aware that communications regarding our promises to the priority of equity has for some caused frustration, confusion and disappointment. We are relentlessly committed to doing better by the students and communities we serve. We need community to do this work, and we are grateful for the collective voices of concern. It will take all of us and sustained collective effort to shift the climate and culture of Poudre School District, to counter racism, hate and discrimination and ensure that our schools and workplace are inclusive for all students and staff. We will implement the actions below and assess the measures of our steps with great frequency and depth.
Español - Plan de Acción del PSD para la equidad, diversidad e inclusión
Poudre School Districts Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Framework
Our Language, Culture & Equity (LCE) Department has developed an Equity Diversity and Inclusion Framework. This framework will guide our work in ensuring that schools engage in meaningful dialogue with and provide actionable support to students and staff, all of whom have multifaceted layers of humanity and identities. The framework is rooted in the commitment to creating a place of belonging for all in PSD. If done well and with authenticity, the work of equity is never accomplished; it is refined, reflected and improved. The framework will provide the critical lens through which to see that we must remove students’ barriers to education, affirm partnerships, centralize the student experience and hold all stakeholders accountable to the work of equity.
Inclusive of student, staff and community voices
For the 2020-21 school year, the LCE Department is developing additional equity coalitions to ensure teacher, staff, student, and community voices guide our action toward solutions. It is critical that we meet with community members to hear their experiences in our schools and ask what changes they expect to see so that we develop our success criteria from the voices that haven’t been represented in our successes.
As part of a Student Equity Coalition, secondary students will be engaged to reflect on their experiences within PSD, including but not limited to lived experiences in our schools related to social-emotional health and trauma; bias incident reporting; and culturally inclusive curriculums. This group will be facilitated by staff trained in anti-biased, trauma-informed, and restorative justice practices. Those interested in being part of the student coalition should fill out the form at https://bit.ly/PSDStudentEquityCoalition.
A similar coalition will be established for staff. Those who are interested in participating may fill out the form at https://bit.ly/PSDTeacherEquityCoalition.
Engagement will also continue with many different groups in our district and community. This includes families from all backgrounds, including linguistically diverse families, students and families experiencing homelessness, students with identified disabilities, our LGBTQIA+ community, and other families wanting to engage in this work together. We want to know what our students, staff and community are feeling, what they’ve experienced and what sustainable changes we must make.
Staff professional growth
PSD will host mandatory equity, diversity and inclusion trainings for ALL staff, including the superintendent and Cabinet, throughout the 2020-21 school year. Initial training for ALL staff is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 14. We will share additional information about the training (topics, times, locations, etc.) in the future.
We also expect our leaders to learn and grow in their skillsets which includes evaluating their own biases to lead through a practice of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
We will continue to lean into our existing partnerships to bring needed curricular enhancements to our sites. Additionally, starting in the 2020-21 school year, staff will be able to navigate a curricular resource guide that will house curated content from Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) educational leaders and leading equity platforms in order to support transformative learning opportunities.
PSD will also audit existing curriculum through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion and identify areas of change for improvement. The district is also developing a rubric that will be used in future PSD curriculum adoptions to specifically evaluate prospective materials on the basis of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Especially this summer, we have witnessed multiple incidents of hate and racism that have brought widespread hurt, fear and national attention to our community. As an educational organization, we must lean in and use these acts as an opportunity for education and reaffirmation of the need to engage in this collective work. Our silence should not be mistaken as an endorsement and/or support of any discriminatory action in our community and our schools. This type of act is not tolerated. We don’t tolerate these types of actions in our schools, but that does not mean that offenders are immediately expelled. Infractions made against human dignity require that we engage those involved to ensure our values of inclusivity, respect, and equity are upheld.
Every one of our students has educational rights that prevent me from discussing discipline issues publicly, particularly if the student is a minor. I know that can be frustrating to an invested school community wanting more details, but PSD will continue to address the behavioral issues of students out of public view and will issue consequences that are not openly shared. I do not intend to comment on individual student action, and I will maintain the privacy of our young people and their families, but rest assured, my refusal to publicly discuss specifics regarding any student issue does not indicate these matters are handled without the due care and seriousness they are warranted.
We do not attempt to do this important work alone. We are only a part of our community – we cannot do it alone. We do this work together. We know families, like those of us in PSD, are navigating difficult conversations and figuring out how to talk with children and teenagers about what’s happening across our world and our community. The following is a selection of vetted resources that may help facilitate deep and meaningful dialogue and reflection.
Again, this is incredibly important work that needs to happen in PSD now – and with urgency and intentionality. PSD is committed to being an organization of dignity and belonging for everyone. We have learning to do and pledge to continue listening and working courageously on behalf of our students, staff and communities.
Sandra Smyser, Ph.D.