According to Lupita Hinojosa, SISD's chief of school leadership and student support services, equity has been one of the board's primary goals since 2015. Board President Rhona Newhouse said she was particularly excited about the kick-off of the district's Equity Action Plan as the topic is one close to her heart.
"There is nothing more important to me than putting systems and resources in place to ensure every child has the opportunity for success in school, as in life," Newhouse said during the meeting. "Equity has been one of my personal goals for as long as I have been working in education, and I'm excited about the future in Spring ISD. We have some work to do, and some of it may be challenging. But the joys and the rewards of that work are real, especially if we come to it with good will and and honest desire to build a better world for all of our children. We're going to be diving deep into this work in the coming school year and I'm confident that our focus on equity is going to make a difference in the lives of our students and our entire Spring ISD community."
According to Hinojosa, district officials looked at equity frameworks already in place in school districts across the country, such as Chicago Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools and Denver Public Schools, upon which to base SISD's framework. The new initiative aims to bring to life the district's equity statement, which reads: "Spring Independent School District strongly believes in educational and racial equity as fundamental aspects of its core mission and purpose, embodied through any program, practice, decision, or action that affects all students, with a strategic focus on those choices and policies that most strongly impact marginalized student groups.
"We believe all students, regardless of their ability (cognitive, physical or social-emotional), ethnicity, language, race, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, family structure, and socio-economic status, should have equitable access to opportunities, resources, support systems, and educational rigor in order to maximize their academic success and social-emotional well-being. We believe every Spring Independent School District student is valuable and possesses individual strengths and characteristics that make our district a great place to learn and grow.
Moreover, we seek to act on that belief, instituting policies and practices that value diversity, committing ourselves as a district to continued growth and development, and working to support the success of every student in all that we do."
The plan calls for the creation of a steering committee made up of the superintendent; two trustees; six board-recommended community members; two at-large community members and five student council members, who apply for the committee; and a work group comprising the assistant superintendent of schools, five principals, five assistant/associate principals, five district support personnel, five teachers, five students and five parents.
The steering committee will meet via Zoom on the fourth Thursday of every month beginning July 30 at 4 p.m., while the equity agenda work group will meet via Zoom the first and third Tuesdays of every month beginning Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. Interested SISD employees, parents and community members can click here to apply for either committee.
"To help in the process of having a transparent and open discussion and dialogue with our community and our district, we are doing a call for our community to participate," Hinojosa said. "We know we have a lot of very invested parents and community members that would like to participate in this committee, and so we have created an application that will be put out for all of our community in English and in Spanish because we want to make sure that we have all voices at the table."
Key tenets of the plan will include awareness, staff development, data analysis, and voice and student supports. Hinojosa said the steering committee will be tasked with establishing the equity action plan priority focus areas, developing a "community-friendly" action statement and identifying the priority data points for the upcoming equity audit.
"One of the critical pieces that we believe we need is to secure a partner that would conduct an equity audit," she said. "We believe that often times, we may either have policies in place or practices in place that unknowingly may be creating inequity in our district. And so in order to be able to create an equity action plan that truly addresses all areas of the district and all practices, we believe we want to reach out and secure a partner that would conduct an equity audit from the schools all the way through to our central office and all of the practices that are involved."
Throughout the process, the Equity Action Plan will also host a variety of forums with a variety of groups ranging from student, parent and community groups to student council groups and the SISD Education Foundation, among others.
"We also want to do a survey," Hinojosa said. "We've been very fortunate that are parents are extremely engaged and they want to share their thoughts and their values with us, and so we want to conduct a survey to gain their understanding and what they see because often times the perception of our parents to the perception of the community becomes the reality."
The committee aims to complete plan development within the next six months with the goal of implementing the Equity Action Plan in June 2021.
"We see this work as continuous work for the next five years as we look in every area of our district to ensure that we are providing excellent education for our students in order to ensure we have excellent outcomes for all students," Hinojosa said.