PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December - Page 33

guest perspectives

guest perspectives

Tammie Burnaford , superintendent , Bellefonte Area School District

What are some challenges related to equity that your district has faced over the past year ? The concept of equity became a primary focus in our district over the past year . The pandemic magnified the equity issues surrounding our educational practices and delivery of a quality education to all students . In addition , as a result of community input at our school board meetings , our district began to address diversity , equity and inclusion ( DEI ) issues within the school community as a whole . In terms of the educational equity challenges of the past year , we were forced into a remote teaching and learning model which created many challenges . Our district is somewhat rural , and we had many families without reliable internet access and connectivity . Reaching and teaching our students remotely was difficult for both teachers and students . Equity , or more often inequity , in education was determined by the family ’ s access to reliable internet service . Addressing the diverse academic , social-emotional and mental health needs of all students was especially difficult during the past year .

Additionally , in the summer of 2020 our district and board of directors began discussions regarding DEI within our school community . These discussions led to initiatives to improve school and community awareness with regard to DEI . For example , in the fall of 2020 , a districtwide committee was created to address some of the issues , including stereotypes and implicit biases within the school community . Also , the board of education adopted a resolution to support the DEI stance , committee and initiatives . At about the same time , community members began to comment more at the public board meetings about the existing mascot for our district , and specifically about the imagery of Native Americans that was evident throughout the district . The mascot had been in place for nearly 80 years and was beloved by alumni and community members , but was opposed by other alumni and community members who viewed the mascot as not representative of the growth-for-DEI attitude that was needed in the district . The topic became very divisive in the community , and the board meetings included emotional and sometimes heated debate . Ultimately , the board of directors voted to eliminate the Native American imagery in the district and move to a new mascot , moniker or brand over this coming year .
What are some ways your district is addressing the need for equity in all areas ? With regard to educational equity , our district engaged in a continuous improvement approach to meeting students ’ needs . As an example , we provided internet devices to families to improve internet reliability . We are ensuring our ARP ESSER monies are being used to address the specific needs of students whose learning was impacted by the pandemic . Our districtwide , DEI
Jackie . Inouye @ psba . org .
In the past year , we ’ ve taken our first steps in our journey toward improving the culture of our district through the lens of diversity , equity and inclusion for ALL .
committee continues to expand , learn and grow . Over the past year , we attended workshops and seminars focused on equity through PSBA and others , provided equity-focused mandatory staff trainings , worked with local educational equity leaders at Penn State , and learned from and collaborated with Dr . Chatters , the director of equity and inclusivity at the State College Area School District . A page on the district website is dedicated to our ongoing efforts . In the past year , we ’ ve taken our first steps in our journey toward improving the culture of our district through the lens of diversity , equity and inclusion for ALL .
November / December 2021 PSBA Bulletin 31