Listening to the ideas and opinions of the students and empowering their voice is imperative .
Brown says that framework “ focuses more on routine operations and embedding the standard behaviors we want to see .”
Shawanna James-Coles , director of diversity , equity and inclusion ( DEI ) and education for the Centennial School District ( CSD ), confirms she ’ s in charge of the equity work for CSD but is quick to credit others . “ We have a districtwide team , leading the work is a team effort . So we also have parent groups and parent representatives and student voice teams from each of our secondary schools ,” she explains . “ I ’ m also fortunate to have the support of our school board members . They work with us to ensure every student finds success .”
James-Coles says the district ’ s journey began by asking if diversity , equity and inclusivity practices were part of the fabric of CSD . “ Listening to the ideas and opinions of the students and empowering their voice is imperative . I / we remind them it is ok to have civil discourse . We may not always agree with one another ; but we must keep an open mind and respect the ideas and opinions of others ,” she says . She also notes each building has equity liaisons that are teacher stipend positions , and action plans are buildingbased because the building groups , like the individual students she ’ s working to help , each have their own unique personality .
Staff has been supportive of those efforts according to James-Coles . “ A few years ago , during our opening day welcome-back-to-school faculty meeting , it was amazing because I was provided time to speak about our equity work . There were 10 or 14 members on our team at that time . I went on a listening tour , spent time at each of the buildings ,” she says .
That listening tour paid off , with 86 members on the districtwide equity team today . Listening is a theme that regularly appears in James-Coles ’ work . Giving voice to the groups and individuals and listening when those voices call is an effective way to gain understanding of others ’ lived experiences . And others deliver and receive their message with different vehicles .
“ One building ’ s group said during the listening tour that they needed to know more and so they listened to podcasts and read books ,” James- Coles says .
The work hasn ’ t been made easier by a worldwide pandemic , though .
“ It ’ s unfortunate that COVID has impacted us so much ,” says Chatters . “ Starting in 2018 , your first year was about getting the lay of the land . Part of my role is to advise and support every department in our district . My first year was really getting to know the district , the processes , what was going on . My second year was me trying to work to fill in some gaps .”
Chatters says her first priorities were very student-focused — looking at ways to develop pathways of equity for students in order to give them the experience of equal outcomes . She also looked for ways to garner more voices from underrepresented groups in the community , to have them provide feedback and be more involved in decision-making . She established equity workgroups each focused on different issues — one focused on race and marginalized populations , one on LGBTQ and gender equity , another on disability issues , another on international immigration , another on equity in athletics , another on student voice , and one on religion and spirituality issues .