Friday, 01 November 2019 12:30

November 2019 Superintendency Message

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A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:

Several months ago, Weber School District hired Lillian Tsosie-Jensen as our equity director to assist in ensuring that every child in our school district experiences a bias-free, safe education. Lillian brings a wealth of experience, leadership and knowledge to this new role. We not only welcome Lillian, but as a school district look forward to working with her to create and maintain a learning environment free from inequity or injustice of any kind.  

Some have asked what our district's equity effort entails. Let me start by stating what it does not involve—any kind of political agenda! For many years, we have taken pride as a school district in focusing on the whole child. This means that we have resisted trends to narrow the curriculum by emphasizing only basic skills in two or three subjects. Rather, when we speak about the whole child, we stress our desire that every child enjoys a rich, comprehensive learning experience in our schools. Further, we want each student to feel safe and supported, and to be fully engaged in learning as they are challenged in ways that enable them to reach their highest potential.

As we strive toward achieving equity for every child, we can and should deepen our understanding of what it means for students to feel safe and supported at school. Often, when we speak of student safety, for example, we are referencing circumstances that might call into action our safety response protocol--in other words, ensuring students' physical safety. However, every child must also feel safe socially and emotionally in order to achieve at their highest level. Similarly, past references to supporting students may have implied academic or counseling support. As we put on our "equity lense," supporting students also means that we recognize and remove barriers that impede learning and achievement.  

Our district journey toward achieving greater equity for all students goes beyond merely studying different cultures. For instance, it would serve little purpose to study the culture of poverty (or race, religion, gender identity, etc.) and then not do anything about the impediments and hurdles that students of poverty face from day to day. Rather, we must better recognize when even subtle forms of bias or discrimination become obstacles in a child's path. Then, we can respond in appropriate and effective ways to remove those barriers so that they no longer impede growth and progress. Additionally, we want to empower each other, adult and student alike, to stand up against acts of bias, discrimination and injustice. Ultimately, our collective capacity to "stand up" to injustice will have the single greatest impact on creating and sustaining the kind of culture where every person thrives.  

In the end, this is about goodness and doing the right thing. I would hope, perhaps more than anything else, that every student (and their parents) would say of Weber School District, "It's a good place." That, to me, would truly reflect The Weber Way!

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