Thank you to the parents who completed the Diversity and Inclusion Survey, we had over 100 responses, and the results have been shared with the ISD Board’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. One of the questions asked if the parents were aware ISD had an action plan which outlines the steps the school is taking to make real and lasting change at ISD to diversity and inclusion? Sixty-four percent of the parents indicated they were aware of the ISD action plan and 36% were not aware. Of the parents who were aware of the school’s action plan, 74% percent were satisfied with the school’s efforts, 15% were neutral, and 9% were unsatisfied.
So, based on these results, I wanted to update you on the actions we have taken over the past five months.
The school has two groups overseeing the school’s diversity and inclusion efforts this year. The ISD Diversity and Inclusion Team, comprised of ISD educators, is led by Dr. Nneka Johnson. Dr. Johnson was named Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator in January, a new position the Board created at the end of 2020. She will serve in this role in addition to her regular duties as Director of Innovation. The Diversity and Inclusion Team has been responsible for professional development activities, listening sessions, and is developing a tool for reporting and responding to bias.
The Board Diversity and Inclusion Committee is comprised of Trustees, administrators, teachers, students, and a parent. The Committee is responsible for monitoring the school’s progress on the school’s action plan, providing advice, and will review the data collected from the listening sessions and surveys this year to start planning for next year.
The action plan was divided into six areas - learning, listening, staffing, policy review, reporting bias, and student advocacy.
Darnell Fine, our diversity and inclusion consultant, presented a “How to be an Anti-Racist” workshop to the administration, Board, and all faculty in August and September. The Diversity and Inclusion Team gave a series of workshops for all faculty members in November.
Members of the Diversity and Inclusion Team led listening sessions for Grades 11 and 12, where students were invited to share their stories of discrimination and bias at ISD. The sessions for the other secondary school grades were planned but had to be paused due to the restriction of mixing student cohorts. D & I Team members will conduct a listening session with our support staff. Darnell will run listening sessions for all other interested staff. A parent listening session will be planned for later this year.
Students and staff were invited to take the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion survey conducted by an independent organization, Tripod Education. ISD parents were invited to take a diversity and inclusion survey over the last two weeks.
The data gathered from the listening sessions and the surveys will be reviewed by the D & I Committee and Administration in a session led by Darnell. The results of the data review will be presented at the Annual General Meeting in May.
A major part of our diversity and inclusion efforts is hiring teachers and administrators that reflect the diversity of our students. We made changes to our hiring priorities last year. As a result, 43% of all of the new hire teachers for this year were educators of color as compared to 9% for the previous three years. Hiring for the 2021-2022 school year is well underway and we are having similar success this year. A future JAG article will detail our hiring practices and how we have been able to significantly increase the number of teachers of color we are able to hire.
It is important that the school take a critical and objective look at the policies and practices that are in place. We asked Darnell to review the ISD Board Policy Manual to identify possible areas that can lead to discrimination and bias. He completed his review in January and the Board’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Policy Committee will review his recommendations and begin the work of changing identified policies.
Reporting Discrimination and Bias
There are two important initiatives still to be done. The D & I Team will be creating a process to allow for incidents of bias and discrimination to be reported, investigated, and addressed. They will be reviewing best practices from other organizations and then make recommendations to the Administration and, potentially, the Board.
The school will create a Social Justice Council comprised of high school students and led by faculty advisors. The Social Justice Council will raise diversity and equity issues to the Administration and the Board. The students in the council will receive training on how to provide professional development to teachers on diversity and inclusion issues. Also, the council will assist the guidance counselors in providing advisory lessons for their fellow students.
We are proud of the initial steps we have taken to address racism, discrimination, and bias in our community. However, there is still much work to be done. Every facet of our community - Board, Administration, staff, students, and parents - are committed to taking concrete action so that every member of our community is heard, valued, safe, and respected.