West Hartford Board of Education Encouraging Public Input on Educational Equity Policy

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The West Hartford Board of Education had a first reading Tuesday of a draft of a new Educational Equity Policy and is seeking public input prior to a June 1 vote.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Board of Education is planning to adopt an Educational Equity Policy to reaffirm its commitment to equity and anti-racism and which will serve as over-arching policy for the district and impact the lives of all students.

It will also be taken into account as a lens and guide through which future policies are adopted.

West Hartford Public Schools in 2020 officially adopted a vision of its commitment to equity and anti-racism, and the Educational Equity Policy will take that vision to the next step. The draft policy addresses several goals for advancing equity, including a fair and just allocation of budget monies and goals for recruitment and staffing, as well as specific curriculum and professional development.

A partnership between the schools, families, and the community is also an aspect of the policy, as is utilizing data to ensure the commitment has measurable impact and will ensure positive academic outcomes and social and emotional growth for all students.

The Board’s Policy Committee – Democrats Amanda Aronson and Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, and Republican Liz Wilcox – worked in conjunction with Director of Equity Advancement Roszena Haskins as well as members of the district’s “One Community for Equity” network of parents/caregivers, educators, and community partners to draft the policy, and is hoping to receive additional public input as it is finalized and brought to the Board for adoption at the June 1, 2021 meeting.

“Equity is different than equality,” Aronson told the Board as she introduced the policy. It includes a recognition that all students are not the same.

“They have different gifts, different backgrounds, different needs, different learning styles, and they arrive to the classroom each day with different lived experiences having had different levels of access to education, health, and wellness support,” Aronson said, and planning with an equity mindset focuses on “how best to support our students as individuals.”

The district already has a strong commitment to equity, Aronson said, which was strengthened further when Haskins’ role was expanded to become the Office of Equity Advancement, and now also includes Scott Ratchford. That department will be responsible for the implementation of the policy ultimately adopted.

The second reading of the Educational Equity Policy – a draft of which can be found as a PDF below or by clicking here – will take place prior to the Board’s vote for adoption on June 1. “From now until then we want to hear from you,” Thomas-Farquharson said.

“What we are presenting today is the reflection of our community voice,” she said, and takes into account “spirit” which needs to collectively be put forth into action.

The Educational Equity Policy incorporates and is intended to guide actions and practices to uphold the district’s Mission and Vision for Equity and Anti-Racism.

Additional comments and suggestions made by the public can be made via email (email addresses for Board members can be found here) and will be incorporated into an updated version of the policy. Public comment about the policy can also be made in person at the May 18 Board of Education meeting and prior to the vote on June 1, and instructions on how to call into those meetings to comment will be available when the agendas are posted.

Crafting of the Educational Equity Policy has been a collective effort,” Wilcox said, “and while this is a new policy the ideas expressed are not new.”

While adopting the policy is innovative, “this reflects the work that we are mostly already doing,” Board Chair Deb Polun said. She noted the importance of putting it down in writing in one place to guide this Board – and future West Hartford Boards of Education.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from more community members over the next month or so,” Polun said.

Haskins thanked the Board for honoring and recognizing her department’s work, and also noted the input of Ratchford and the Equity and Diversity Council. “We definitely want all voices, want representation,” she said. “We will continue to explore opportunities so that we leave no stone unturned.”

More information about the EDC can be found on their web page of the West Hartford Public School’s website. Information about the “One Community for Equity” collaborative partnership can be found here.

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