Grand Island Public Schools is working to address equity in the district.
At the Board of Education’s retreat Saturday morning, approximately 80 GIPS staff members came together to discuss how they could address equity issues.
Superintendent Tawana Grover said the board adopted on June 11, 2020, a resolution about eliminating racism within the district.
“We have been learning together and we know that this is a journey that we are on. We have been reading books and trying to understand more about what the data is informing us about our students, as well as the narrative behind the data,” Grover said.
“Today (Saturday) was a remarkable opportunity for us to continue that learning together. I think that with everything that is happening with the pandemic, (having) a continuous focus on equity really shows that our Board of Education is making sure that this is not just a moment, but a movement.”
In order to build an equity framework, Grover said the district has formed a task force, which includes Board of Education members, teachers and principals, as well as community members.
“They are part of building an equity action plan so that we can clearly articulate the systems we are trying to disrupt and dismantle to create equity for all of our students,” Grover said.
GIPS’ commitment states that the district will be “providing each individual what they need, when they need in it, in an inclusive and anti-discriminatory environment.
The district is committed to “identifying, disrupting and addressing our individual and districtwide biases so all students, staff and families are known, heard, connected, valued and supported.” It adds that all stakeholders “accept responsibility and hold themselves and each other accountable to cultivate an equitable district, free of racism and discrimination to ensure ‘Every Student, Every Day, A Success.’”
“So we have the anchors for everything to move forward,” Grover said. “But what this work with the equity task force is doing is they are going a step further than just saying, ‘Yes, we have a definition’ and ‘Yes, we have a commitment.’ We are also putting together a clear action plan, just like we built our strategic plan. We have very specific objectives that we wanted to achieve through the strategic plan.”
Grover said GIPS’ goal is to have the equity framework completed by the end of the school year with the district spending the summer training teachers.
“The other thing we recognize is that we cannot do this work alone,” she said. “We are thankful for our community members who already are part of the conversation. I look forward to having a greater conversation with our community.”
As part of Saturday’s board retreat, Matthew Kincaid of New Orleans-based Overcoming Racism, gave a lengthy timeline from 1619 to today on racism and inequality. Grover said this allowed GIPS leaders to understand how historical systems are the roots of some of the injustices GIPS students are faced with today.
“I think it was just exposing that it is not just about people being able to pull themselves up with their boot straps,” she said. “It was more about all the challenges throughout history that individuals have faced and where we can begin to change some of that through our policies, through our support and through just having an awareness — an openness — to have a conversation.”
Grover said she is proud to be a part of a school district that is “willing to show up and to step up” to address equity.
“I think, for me as superintendent, it is always a little awkward to call it out, but being an African-American leader of our district, what our leadership and the Board of Education demonstrated today (Saturday) is that an effective equity agenda is not solely owned by people of color,” she said. “Rather, it is owned by people who take personal and professional ownership of the problems and the solutions. I think we are seeing is that we know that we want to be equitable.”