From the superintendent

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Dear Colleagues:

As a Latina superintendent in the United States, I reflect every day on the role of race in my life. On this Martin Luther King Day, I am so thankful and proud to lead a school district where racial equity is not a passing initiative. We are entering our third year of a five-year plan to support and train each SPPS employee to reflect on his or her own personal racial beliefs and how those beliefs affect their work in our district.

This is about continuing Dr. King’s dream of an equitable society by identifying practices and systems that do not contribute to the success of all students – systems that, in particular, overlook the needs and/or abilities of students of color.

Sometimes that sounds or feels like blame, particularly because we have all been a part of “the system” for years. That’s what it sounded like to me at first, too. But guilt only prevents the ability to take action and stop the inequities.

Let me be clear: In SPPS, we value all students, parents, staff, and community members – people of color, American Indian and white. We cannot and will not blame our white colleagues for the disparities in achievement between white children and children of color.

We are all part of the solution when we truly and fully engage in our racial equity work. This work is about:

  • Ensuring our students see themselves in what we teach by examining our curriculum and offering literature and non-fiction materials that tell stories from our students' cultures.
  • Adapting business practices that level the playing field for local businesses – including businesses owned by people of color – to contract with SPPS.
  • Challenging classroom practices that work well for some students and not others. For example, considering diverse learning styles that incorporate oral and narrative traditions.
  • Developing and supporting strong leaders and teachers who work to interrupt inequities.
  • Discussing the hard issues around race, while respecting the fact that this is not about blame or shame. It’s about changing beliefs and behaviors and making a better world for our students.

I am encouraged by the progress we are seeing in all areas of the district:

  • In Como Elementary, the 5th grade team has seen achievement gains for all students and accelerated achievement for students of color, narrowing the achievement gap. Como Park Elementary is one of seven Beacon schools that participated both in Equity teams and in culturally responsive training (CARE teams).
  • Crossroads’s CARE team presented at the National Courageous Conversation Conference on their success with student achievement through their equity work. Their next step is to expand this work with additional teacher teams.
  • Students who participate in the African American Male Initiative course at Washington Secondary have significantly increased their GPAs.
  • Students at Gordon Parks presented their Transitions multimedia project, which chronicles light rail construction, at a national conference in October.
  • 13 schools have teacher teams that are part of a year-long culturally responsive cohort
  • Seven schools are delving into action research through the CARE project (learn more).
  • Operations staff have participated in customer service training focused on equity.
  • Operations departments have equity teams and established equity goals.

How has our racial equity work impacted you? I hope you’ll take a moment and share your thoughts with us about any insights you’ve received through this work, or ways in which you’ve changed the way you do business in SPPS.

I hope we can all find inspiration in Dr. King to continue this battle for social justice. Thank you for your honesty and your courage.

Your very proud superintendent,

Silva Signature


 

Valeria S. Silva