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East Lyme Schools Plan Next Steps After Diversity Study And Survey


EAST LYME – The East Lyme School Board is ready to take the next steps in its diversity work after reviewing the findings of a root cause equity analysis conducted by the Equity Institute, according to a discussion at Monday night’s meeting.

The results were first presented to the board at its September 13 meeting by Equity Institute CEO Karla Vigil and her partners Kaitlin Moran and Katya Rodriguez, who made recommendations on how move forward by addressing the major issues identified in their survey, focus groups and interviews. with neighborhood stakeholders.

Problems the team uncovered during the research include students and staff under stress when trying to succeed in a high-performing district, a desire to take technical and business education courses, and a apparently excessive identification of students of color receiving special education services.

Other issues cited are students with health or financial difficulties facing barriers in the district, a lack of staff diversity, and students feeling unsafe and harassed by sexist comments.

Recommendations included prioritizing and investing in mental health supports, setting school and community standards on respect and inclusion, verifying the curriculum for inequitable trends and across lines, recruiting staff outside of Eastern Connecticut, and more.

“There were a lot of good things. I think that really spoke to my goal, which is really about this sense of belonging for all the kids this year, ”Superintendent Jeffrey Newton said, according to the meeting. video recording.

After the school board received these findings on September 13, the full report was presented to the board’s ad hoc diversity, equity and inclusion committee a week later. Newton and committee members Barry Sheckley, Leigh Gianakos and Timothy Hagen discussed the next steps.

For now, they are focused on maintaining their commitment to the goals and procedures outlined in their diversity, equity and inclusion policy.

“I certainly think it was, overall, very consistent with where our strategic plan was directing us, or pointing us, in the direction (of) the path we were taking,” Hagen said at the meeting. Monday meeting.

The strategic plan was approved by the board in April. Some items on the list have already been completed, including the audit of the Equity Institute.

The action element of the strategic plan is to conduct curriculum reviews, which the Equity Institute recommended when sharing its findings.

East Lyme and all Connecticut school districts have been required to offer an elective course at the high school level that allows students to better understand African-American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino contributions to history, society, economy and culture of the United States. by this fall.

One lesson is not enough, according to the East Lyme plan. “Improvements in complementary study programs in all schools and at all levels would be needed to target the dual nature of the problem. [East Lyme Public Schools] face ”, indicates the plan.

Another recommendation from the study was the addition of technical and business education courses, something Newton said he was already thinking about. “I kind of drew a few important points that I thought were of the greatest value,” he said.

The fifth action element of the strategic plan on diversity, equity and inclusion is the hiring of professors and administrators determined to fight racism, promote diversity, promote equity and foster inclusion.

The plan references research that indicates there is a long-term impact of same-race teachers on academic success.

“Black students assigned to a black kindergarten to grade 3 teacher are 13% more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than their peers who did not receive a diploma. ‘black teacher,’ the plan says. It also states that white students can also see negative biases moving around when they are around staff of color.

East Lyme Public Schools is a predominantly white district, made up of about nine percent Asian students, eight percent Hispanic / Latino (a), five percent of those who identify as two races or more and two percent black, according to plan.

To diversify the workforce, the district will develop and implement a plan to recruit minority educators, which the institute has also recommended.

All of these recommendations will be used as a guide for the future, with some instituted in the district, officials said.

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