School administration focuses on diversity

March 23, 2023

School officials are pressing forward in their efforts to meet the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals – from developing an incident reporting system to creating a designated space for students of color to gather at the high school.

“In my one year on the School Committee I have seen real urgency around realizing the school’s Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) goals,” School Committee member Carrie Rankin said. She detailed the group’s recent DEIB efforts at a candidate forum on March 5 while seeking to extend her service position. 

On Jan 17, Diversity Consultants Dr. Kalise Wornum and Dr. Carroll Blake presented the results of the district’s “Equity Audit,” a comprehensive needs assessment that administrators commissioned in 2021 to better understand and address equity issues within the school community. The audit revealed that many teachers do not currently feel equipped to handle sensitive issues related to equity in the classroom and that school community members want to see the administration set ambitious DEIB goals. Wornum and Blake provided a host of recommendations in their presentation.

“Some of their recommendations included continuing to hire a diverse staff, more transportation for METCO kids so they can participate in more after school activities, implementing an incident reporting structure, increasing BIPOC participation in AP courses, and increased professional development,” Rankin said.

Many of the recommendations align with those of DEIB Director Andrew Nyamekye’s strategic five-year plan. Nyamekye is already finalizing plans for a new incident reporting system, for example, which he shared with the school committee for review on March 8. 

Rankin explained that Nyamekye’s role has been pivotal in pushing these efforts forward, and that he and the METCO program directors have sought feedback from students. “There were very in-depth, long conversations where they got some really good feedback about what they need and one of the things was a dedicated space in the high school where students of color could gather and so that has been implemented,” Rankin said. Nyamekye also established a student advisory group at CCHS that he meets with regularly to continue listening to the needs of BIPOC students, she said.

An additional METCO director was hired this year to support the program and the school committee implemented a new policy to allow two METCO representatives to sit on the committee, Rankin shared. Superintendent Laurie Hunter explained that METCO enrollment has declined recently due to changes in their onboarding process, and that she remains committed to supporting and expanding the program.

“That’s probably one of our biggest areas of focus right now: stabilizing the enrollment,” she said. 

Rankin noted that the schools are facing a host of unique challenges right now. “We are coming out of a global pandemic, we had a mental health crisis prior to covid that has really only been exacerbated by the pandemic, we have growing needs for specialized education, we’re working on building a new middle school.” In the midst of these challenges DEIB efforts show no signs of slowing down.

“There is more work to do, a lot more work, but the district has worked hard to make our schools a place where every student feels as though he/she/they belong,” Rankin said.