LISD committee provides 7 action steps to ensure equity, diversity in district

lisd
Creating an equity office, hosting listening sessions and implementing professional learning are three of seven action steps that Leander ISD staff and the board of trustees discussed Jan. 28 based on a district committee’s recommendations. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

Creating an equity office, hosting listening sessions and implementing professional learning are three of seven action steps that Leander ISD staff and the board of trustees discussed Jan. 28 based on a district committee’s recommendations. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

Creating an equity office, hosting listening sessions and implementing professional learning are three of seven action steps that Leander ISD staff and the board of trustees discussed Jan. 28 based on a district committee’s recommendations.

The Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee’s goal is “to provide guidance to ensure equity and diversity within Leander ISD,” according to the district. The committee began meeting in August and created three focus areas: community collaboration, professional learning, and policy and practice. LISD administrators, teachers, board and community members are committee members.

Each focus group provided recommendations and action steps to the school board. Seven action steps included:

  • Host listening sessions in spring 2021

  • Support the development of an equity and diversity web page and section in district newsletters

  • Board of trustees attend training during spring 2021

  • Support the implementation of professional learning for equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization

  • Task administration to develop a framework and draft equity policy

  • Fund an office of equity in Leander ISD

  • Approve personnel to staff the office of equity


No vote or action was required on the discussion to move forward, but the committee will return to the board with listening session dates, equity policy and other items.

“As I understand, the consensus of the board is to move forward. Go work, and we look forward to the updates and next steps,” said Board President Trish Bode.

The webpage is expected to go live Jan. 29, listening session dates will be planned for February, equity office job description drafts could be presented to the board and next steps communication will continue, said Chrysta Carlin, LISD’s assistant superintendent for pathways and innovation.


Equity office creation

The creation of an equity office, approving district equity policy and promoting equitable and inclusive practices were recommendations of the policy and practice subcommittee. The group has started drafting roles and responsibilities of a lead equity position, said Leander Middle School assistant principal Ebony Parks, who served in the subcommittee.

“We believe it deserves someone who focuses on this work singularly and who can impact this work on a daily basis,” Parks said.

Glenn High School teacher David Barnes said the group looked at how LISD can prioritize meeting the needs of its historically underserved students.

“Of the 40 largest Texas school districts, Leander ISD is the only district that does not have an organizational structure, framework or action plan to address systemic inequities in our schools,” he said.

Christine Simpson, Rouse High School principal, said these systems will widen the doorway to success for all students.

“We hear from time to time in conversation a fear that if we focus on the student experiences of our marginalized student groups, we will leave other students behind,” she said. “Our committee is here to assure you that widening a path does not supplant one group's success for another. However, the data shows we are leaving our marginalized students behind.”

Board Member Jim MacKay said students need to be part of this equity conversation as well. Simpson said at Rouse there are two task forces, one for students and one for staff, that are in the building stages. She said true change comes with a partnership with students. Similar work is underway at other campuses, Simpson and Parks said.

Actionable recommendations

Recommendations from the community conversations subcommittee were to host community listening sessions, increase transparency in a web page and newsletter equity section, create campus and department equity committees and partner with these committees including student groups and PTAs.

The professional learning subcommittee recommended developing a series of foundational learning experiences for all staff, creating a multi-year and multi-tiered professional learning plan and creating partnerships to expand learning opportunities.

“If we are going to move forward, an important thing that we wanted to work on was differentiating the learning opportunities that we offer,” said Running Brushy Middle School assistant principal Shanelle Douglas.

The district is looking to bring someone into the district who can provide a spring training, Carlin said. Board Member Jim MacKay said he would like the training to be broadcast so the public can be involved.

Board Members Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, MacKay, Smith and Christine Mauer said they fully supported the recommendations and action steps.

“I really think that these recommendations are a good set of first steps,” MacKay said.

Board Member Aaron Johnson said he had concerns about how the district is going about the work. Johnson said he wants to make sure there is a “purposeful change management plan,” and he said the report did not identify problems the district is working to resolve.

“As a trustee, I don’t believe it is my job to either be in favor or opposed to any of the particular actions that have been proposed,” Johnson said.
By Taylor Girtman

Reporter, Cedar Park and Leander

Taylor Girtman became the reporter for the Cedar Park-Leander edition in February 2020. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida.



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