Every community, at some point, must confront issues of racial diversity. Oftentimes, the active response addresses only the immediate crisis, is done in isolation, and without strategies and tools. This may attend to the immediate need but often is not inclusive of the culture of the community or school as a whole.
Weber School District has taken a much more comprehensive and systemic approach to develop a shared vision of educational equity. School and district officials have carefully examined data from multiple stakeholders regarding equity concerns. This data was gathered from focus groups, teachers, parents, and student surveys, and has been formulated into a framework with meaningful indicators. This equity work began in 2018 with the formulation of the Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee (EJIC). The Equity Committee is comprised of key district level leadership, including Superintendent Jeff Stephens and Assistant Superintendents Lori Rasmussen and Art Hansen, as well as teachers and building level administrators. The EJIC has been guided by social change facilitator Kilo Zamora, with state leadership advisors included in the discussion on educational equity for Weber School District. Through this thoughtful process and the commitment of equity, the committee recommended the hiring of an Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Director in 2019.
During the 2019-2020 school year, an Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Team (EJIT) was formed. This team is led by EJI Director, Jamie Ellis, and includes educators and staff from Weber School District, with representation from all district geographic areas. This past school year, both the EJIC and EJIT reviewed the framework based on stakeholder input, and listed priorities to WSD equity work. One of the top priorities from stakeholders is providing a Safe Learning Environment. In the 2019-2020 school year, the EJI Director has focused training staff in this area including topics on unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, and building an inclusive school culture. Currently, the EJIC is working on an action plan, based on the data set listed above, to be released for fall of 2020. We will have resources and strategies in place to support our students and staff returning to school this fall. With our hearts full of humanity, we will walk through this together.
It is important in equity work to distribute leadership. The adoption of this framework was essential to the cultural transformation process. Understanding that this is a learning journey that necessitates staff to stretch and learn about race and racism, to managing discomfort with difficult conversations, and building capacity among all for this work to thrive and grow. When it comes to racial equity, such efforts often carry an extra level of pressure. This is because efforts seeking to enhance equity and inclusion can trigger both conscious and unconscious anxieties when individuals examine values, norms, behaviors, and perceptions. When a framework is implemented effectively, racial equity work can be the catalyst to exploring lived experience, as well as individual transformation. Interactions that make us want to shut down are moments where we are being challenged to think differently. Too often, we cloud this healthy stretch zone with our personal discomfort zone. As a result, we tend to shut down. Committing to staying engaged through the uncomfortable stretch is necessary to push through to real change.
Weber School District is committed to ongoing learning. The work of building and maintaining an inclusive, racially equitable culture is never done. This work is not easy. It will take the support of all to move this work forward. However, we have the framework to guide us and the heart to achieve a positive, safe culture in our schools.
Jeff Stephens; Superintendent
Lori Rasmussen; Assistant Superintendent
Art Hansen; Assistant Superintendent
Weber School District is home to 34,150 students, with 5999 students of racial diversity and 1592 students identified as English Language Learners.