June 2, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Recent events in our world related to race and its intersection with freedom, authority, and social systems have captured the attention of us all. These are not new issues, as centuries of abuse, marginalization and disenfranchisement – and the scars that accompany that history – are front and center on the full American consciousness. As Americans, as citizens, as leaders, and as educators, we stand opposed to the destruction and harm that has been perpetuated toward people of color in our country for far, far too long.

As a school district we are committed to doing our part to change it.

The MRUUSD Board just a few weeks ago adopted what we believe to be only the second school district equity policy in Vermont. This policy emerged after our board committed to a goal to put it in place nearly a year ago. Following months of work at the committee and board level, Board Policy F2: District Equity Policy, is now on the books.

Our equity policy commits us to several critical actions, which are underlined below for emphasis. Here is the text of the policy:

Policy Context – Definition of Education Equity from the VSA/VSBA:

Educational equity means that each student receives the resources and educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive.

Equity means that every school provides high quality curriculum, programs, teachers and administrators, extracurricular activities and support services.

Equity means that a student’s success is not predicted nor predetermined by characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, family economics, class, geography, disability, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or initial proficiencies.

Equity goes beyond formal equality where all students are treated the same. Achieving equity may require an unequal distribution of resources and services.

Equity involves disrupting inequitable practices, acknowledging biases, employing practices that reflect the reality that all students will learn, and creating inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children.

Expectations for District Administration:

To the extent consistent with law and best practices, the District will gather and examine data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, language, special education, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background to inform district decision making.

District administration will work collaboratively on continuous growth in understanding inequity.

At least annually, leadership team members will participate in training related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in education or otherwise relevant to the objectives of this policy.

At least annually, District administration will report to the Board on the district’s compliance with this policy.

Expectations for the Board:

When reviewing and approving policy, the Board will engage the definition of educational equity listed above as a lens to consider the importance of equitable policy.

At least annually, Board members will participate in training related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in education or otherwise relevant to the objectives of this policy.

The board will support District initiatives dedicated to addressing and remediating inequality in our communities.

Expectations for Recruitment and Hiring:

District administration will work to develop recruitment and hiring practices to ensure the district follows best practices to promote diverse and inclusive applicant pools and ensure bias-free hiring practices.

Expectations for Curriculum:

The district will continually evaluate the content and delivery of its curriculum and other educational resources to provide students equitable access to high-quality and culturally relevant instruction.

Expectations for Addressing Conflict:

The District will regularly provide education and training about hazing, harassment and bullying, including information outlining potential consequences for students who engage in that conduct and the resources available for students who are targets of that conduct. In addition, the district will work to increase training in and use of restorative practices.

It goes without saying that a policy is only valuable to the extent that it is implemented. We are committed to implementing our equity policy with integrity and effectiveness. A key part of that implementation includes involving students in the process.

Related to current events, we have had students reach out to us as educators seeking a safe place for conversations about the impacts of recent deaths and the protests and riots that have ensued. Our students are seeking to understand these events and create context to help them to grow and develop. For many of our students, their worlds have been turned upside down this spring through the devastating combination of COVID-19 and observing, learning, and experiencing the circumstances that prompted the protests related to the killing of George Floyd and countless others. Many of our Vermont students do not have the context or life experience to comprehend these events. Our educators must be prepared to assist them through critical and courageous conversation. Our administrators, teachers, and support staff will be doing all that we can to improve our skills and capabilities in order to best support all of our students and give them the opportunities they need to learn and thrive. We are committed to doing that work and getting better at it as we do it. It will be a challenging process, and ongoing, but it is not without hope. We will do our part, and we appreciate your support in that effort.

Sincerely,

Dave Younce, MRUUSD Superintendent of Schools

Tammy Heffernan, MRUUSD Board Chair