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Equitable Family Engagement, Part 1: Using an Equity Lens to Enact Systemic Change

Equitable Family Engagement, Part 1: Using an Equity Lens to Enact Systemic Change

Date of the Event: September 30, 2020 | Daman Harris, Michelle Nutter, Karment Rouland, and Sherri Wilson
Show Notes:

In our first session, Michelle Nutter, Senior Equity Consultant, Center for Education Equity @ MAEC, discussed her use of an “equity audit” to conduct a systemic equity and policy review to identify areas for change. Then Daman Harris, Principal at Wheaton Woods ES, shared his story of being unwilling to let this past summer of social unrest become yet another period in our history of “faded outrage.” Instead, he worked to combat racism where he knew change could be sustained, in his own school.

Alice Clark:

We are live. Welcome for those coming in. Thanks for joining us. I’ll give everyone a few minutes to come in and then give a few welcome words.

Alice Clark:

While people are coming in, we’d welcome you to introduce yourself in the chat. Make sure that your chat goes to all panelists and attendees for everyone to see it.

Alice Clark:

Hi, Leslie from Denver, Heather from Cincinnati. Newark, Texas. Another San Antonio, Texas. Florida. H...

Alice Clark:

We are live. Welcome for those coming in. Thanks for joining us. I’ll give everyone a few minutes to come in and then give a few welcome words.

Alice Clark:

While people are coming in, we’d welcome you to introduce yourself in the chat. Make sure that your chat goes to all panelists and attendees for everyone to see it.

Alice Clark:

Hi, Leslie from Denver, Heather from Cincinnati. Newark, Texas. Another San Antonio, Texas. Florida. Hi from Portland. Got Seattle, New York City, Charleston. Welcome, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. You are in part one of NAFSCE and MAEC CAFE’s Equitable Family Engagement series. This one, we’re really focusing on systems level equity, and we’ve got really awesome presenters for you today. I’ll give people a few more minutes to string in before we start.

Alice Clark:

Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon. Welcome. Actually, I’ll launch a poll. We created a poll to see where in the world people are coming from. We thought it’d be fun to get some numbers. Please, if you’re coming in now, you can introduce yourself in the chat and also fill out our poll and we can see where people are coming from. I will share the results once we get started.

Alice Clark:

All right, it is now officially 3:00. Again, welcome. Thank you for coming. This is part one in our Equitable Family Engagement series. We’ve got a great session, so I won’t take up too much of your time. But before we begin, a few housekeeping items. One, we are live streaming this webinar on NAFSCE’s Facebook, so please feel free to share with your network, like, whatever.

Alice Clark:

We’ve got a great session today. Before we begin, a few housekeeping things. A lot of you are already using the chat. If you are chatting, please make sure your chats go to all panelists and attendees. The default is for it to go to all panelists. If that’s the case, the rest of the group won’t be able to see it. I know a lot of you have amazing things to say so we want everyone to see that.

Alice Clark:

We also have a poll up. We’d love to see where everyone is coming from in the country or the world. We’ll share those results in a minute or two. This webinar will be recorded. We will share the recording and the slides in an email to everyone who registered in a few days so rest easy knowing that. Then the last thing before we begin is make sure that if you have any questions over the course of the presentation that you want to be answered during the Q & A portion that we’ll have at the end, make sure instead of putting them in the chat, we have a Q & A feature. The Q & A box is where you should put any questions you want to be answered during that Q & A portion.

Alice Clark:

With that, I’ll end our poll and share the results. Looks like Northeast is winning, but we’ve got a good mix of people from all over the country so thank you and welcome again. I am going to turn it over to Carmen Rowland, the program manager for CAFE at MAEC.

Carmen Rowland:

Thank you, Alice. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Carmen Rowland. I’m the program manager for the Statewide Family Engagement Center, otherwise known as the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center at the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. MAEC is an educational nonprofit located in Bethesda, Maryland, founded in 1991. We’re dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally, linguistically and economically diverse learners.

Carmen Rowland:

Our vision is a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. Our mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice. We house two federal centers, the Center for Education Equity and the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center. Both centers work with school districts, SEAs, educators and administrators to build their capacity, to implement equitable practices and policies.

Carmen Rowland:

The Center for Education Equity is the Region One equity center, where we partner with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research. The Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center is the statewide family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania, where we apply an equity lens to family engagement. We believe by building relationships amongst schools, parents and community organizations, we seek to improve the development, academic achievement and wellbeing of all students. We’re very glad to be partnering with NAFSCE for today’s webinar. I’m going to turn it over to Sherry. Thank you.

Sherry Williams:

Thank you, Carmen. That was lovely. We are so fortunate to have such a strong partnership with MAEC and through MAEC with CAFE because you guys are doing incredible work and we’re really, really excited about having the opportunity to share some of that with our members. In fact, the impetus for this entire series on equitable family engagement really sprang from some of the work that we’ve seen CAFE doing because equity is such an important part of everything they do. We really wanted to explore that a little bit more, and it seems like in this time of social unrest, it’s a topic that is really relevant to all of us at this point. This is the first in our three-part series.

Sherry Williams:

Today, we’re going to have two fantastic presenters. First, Michelle Nutter is going to talk to us about using an equity lens to enact systemic change. Then we’re going to have Daman Harris talk about a journey towards an anti-racist school leadership. I think we’ve got some really great content planned for you. Once they’re finished with their presentations, we will have time for Q & A. Make sure you use the Q & A box because the chat box is a fast moving river, and if you put something in there, we might miss it. Once we finish the Q & A, we’ll have some final thoughts and then we’ll wrap up. Don’t forget, this is just the first in a three-part series. We’re going to go ahead and get started.

Sherry Williams:

Our first speaker is Michelle Gwinn Nutter. She’s a Pennsylvania certified teacher and a former civil rights investigator for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. She’s a senior equity consultant for the Center for Education Equity at MAEC as well. She does training and TA to schools and communities throughout the state on a lot of issues that disrupt the educational process. She’s a nationally recognized speaker. She often serves as a facilitator for the Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together program.

Sherry Williams:

Michelle is a certified bullying prevention program trainer and a certified Partners Against Hate trainer. As such, she helps schools prevent and respond to bullying and bias-related tension incidents. Michelle’s a certified Lifelines Prevention, Intervention and Postvention trainer. She gives training and TA to help schools develop effective suicide prevention policies. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English education from Messiah College and a Master of Science in education law. Hi, Michelle.

Michelle Nutter:

Hello, Sherry. Thank you so much. I am so pleased to be with you today and just absolutely honored to be able to participate in this webinar. Thank you to all of you who have tuned in. We’re just going to go ahead and jump right in and look at the fact that equity matters. I’m coming from the Center for Education Equity at MAEC, and our work really is about improving and sustaining the systemic capacity of public education to increase outcomes for all students. We really are dedicated to doing this work and providing that technical assistance to schools so that we can see changes in the education system as we know it today.

Michelle Nutter:

I want you to think about this first. What role does equity play within your school system? Typically, we see maybe four ways. The fifth way I didn’t even put on this slide. The fifth way is we don’t look at equity at all, and so I didn’t put that on because I don’t think that that’s an option. But usually we see one of these four ways. The first way we see equity as this nebulous, disconnected, vague goal that might show up. It might even be in a mission statement or a vision statement. It usually says that we’re committed to an equitable learning environment or we’re embracing the values of diversity and equity, which is great. But when we really look, it’s not connected to other aspects of the school system. It’s just this statement or this broad commitment but without being connected.

Michelle Nutter:

The next level is where equity is a standalone aspect of the educational system. We see it coming as almost a check-the-box mentality, right? We might see a district that says, “Oh, yeah, we’re really focused this year on teacher development, and so we’re going to do a training on equity.” Check the box. But we’re not talking about how equity is connected to everything that we do. Then the next step we see is where equity is a focus area. This means it has a more elevated role and it may begin to inform decision making in some areas, but not all areas. We see equity as a focus, similar to climate being a focus, or safety being a focus. Again, not bad. We may even at this level have an equity team or hire an equity director, but the difference between being at this level and being at the next level is that the equity team or the equity director doesn’t have decision-making authority. They make recommendations on how equity might impact other areas of the educational system, but they don’t necessarily have the authority to make sure that equity is part of those other systems.

Michelle Nutter:

Then the final role that we can see equity playing in schools is bolded because this is the goal and where we hope that all schools land, that equity is integral and it’s infused in every single aspect of the educational system. This is where equity frames literally everything that we do from soup to nuts. Or in this case from curriculum to discipline to teacher in-services and teacher retention and recruitment and all of those pieces, every single piece. Equity becomes the lens through which we view every piece of data, every practice, every policy. When equity is the bedrock of our educational system, then that means that we’re going to build in accountability checks to make sure that we’re engaged in continuous improvement.

Michelle Nutter:

It’s important to keep in mind that equity is never a one and done. We never reach the finish line. We’re constantly working. It’s a mindset and a way of life that shows our commitment to dismantling racism and creating educational systems that increase outcomes for all students.

Michelle Nutter:

Now, you’re going to see this slide again. Daman, our next speaker, he’s going to use this graphic as well, so we won’t spend a lot of time on it. But I wanted to just put this out there to really put the focus on justice, right? Social justice is about fixing the system to offer equal access to both tools and opportunities. It’s not just about fixing kids and it shouldn’t ever be about fixing kids. It should be about fixing the system. How do we do the job of education better so that all students have equal access to both the tools and the opportunities to achieve at those high levels that we want for all our students?

Michelle Nutter:

A little bit more about this idea of fixing the kids or fixing the students. If you’re not familiar with Paul Gorski, he’s just an amazing author and has so much wonderful work out there. I put a link here that you can look up this article yourselves that was in the April 2019 edition of the Educational Leadership publication. The title is Avoiding Racial Equity Detours.

Michelle Nutter:

This article goes through four equity detours and then goes on to talk about five principles of equity literacy. But I really wanted to focus on detour number two, the Deficit Ideology Detour, where people are looking at how do we fix students so that they do better in education. That is not where we want to be. I’m going to quote Paul Gorski here. “If we spend any of our equity efforts attempting to fix students of color by fortifying their grittiness or modifying their mindset or adjusting their emotions, we need a reaccounting, not only of our equity understanding, but also of our equity intentions.”

Michelle Nutter:

Instead, we need to fix the system. That’s where we need to invest our time and our effort. Fix the system by eliminating conditions that marginalize students. I have the article there and looks like we’re going to be putting that link in the chat box so that you can access it yourself.

Michelle Nutter:

I said that we need to be at that level where equity is integral and interconnected with everything that we do. In order to do that, we really need to change our lens. We need to have an equity lens approach to everything that we do. Now this graphic, I’ve given credit here on the slide that Pennsylvania School Boards Association developed this graphic and it was adapted from the Portland Public Schools Equity Lens Framework. But what I want you to take away from this is that to do the work of eliminating conditions that marginalize students, which is what Gorski just… was in the last slide from Paul Gorski. Before we can begin to eliminate those conditions, we have to first know what those conditions are. We have to identify them and figure out where they are so that we can then take action.

Michelle Nutter:

This means that we’re looking at every decision, every action, every practice, every policy, every procedure, and we’re examining. Well, what data do we have to show the impact of that decision or that action? Because this is the integral question, right? Do we have disparities? Do we have disproportionalities? What do our numbers, what do our data tell us? Where there’s discrepancy, that means, “Okay, we have work to do.” Then we move to the next step in the blue. If there are discrepancies or disparities, why? Why do they exist? We need to identify what are the root causes. Then we moved to who. Who is missing from the discussion? I think this is a really, really important piece because if we continue to examine things and we look at data and we are constantly using our own lived experiences to examine the data, we’re not going to come up with new answers.

Michelle Nutter:

We need to have lots of folks at the table. We need to have an impact. We need to have involvement by stakeholders at all levels. We need to invite students to the table. We need to invite parents to the table. We need to think about inviting people to the table who haven’t been there before. I often, in working with schools, I find the same core group of people there on the equity team and they’re on the PBIS team and they’re on the bullying prevention team. It’s not to knock those individuals at all. It’s just to say who else could we bring to the table that would make that discussion look at new information, look from a new point of view, see things that the people who have been at the table haven’t seen, right?

Michelle Nutter:

Then once we have the group at the table, then we look at, “Okay, now we know what the problem is. Our data shows us the problem. We know we’ve got to fix it. We’ve got a broad group at the table. Now, what are we going to do about it? What steps do we need to do in order to make the change?” You’ll notice that this graphic is circular because it really is a cyclical process. We don’t ever get to just sit back and rest on our laurels and say, “Wow, we did great.” Yeah, we did great, but things can change. We have to continually monitor and make sure that we’re continually moving towards improvement so that again, that goal of creating an ability for all students to succeed at those high academic levels.

Michelle Nutter:

That graphic from PSBA was a little bit involved so I want to just break it down or simplify it a little bit first. Ask these questions, right? What’s working for all? What’s working for some? And what’s just not working? The first step is important with that. What’s working for all? Because to quote an old saw, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But before we rush to say, “It’s working. It’s good. We don’t need to fix it.” I really, really encourage you to look at your data to make sure it really is working for all. Because what you might find is that it’s working for most, not all. If it’s working for most, it’s still not good enough. We still have work to do. Check that data to verify if it really is working for all. If it truly is, then you don’t need to really tweak it so much. But if it’s working for most, we still have work to do.

Michelle Nutter:

That means we need to tweak it as needed, right? Because whether it’s working for just some, or just a few, or working for most, we still need to fix it. We still need to do more. Then the last area is what’s just not working? It’s not working for anyone. In that case, we need to do a total overhaul of that policy or practice or decision.

Michelle Nutter:

Then I wanted to put another one. We had Pennsylvania School Board Association. Now, this is from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. Their equity lens. You can see some very similar steps to the other lens that I had up earlier, but I really want to draw your attention to question number four in this lens. It’s what are the barriers to more equitable outcomes? For example, mandated political, emotional, financial, programmatic or managerial.

Michelle Nutter:

I think that this is a really, really important piece, right? What is in our way of making sure that we provide equitable access to all? What is in our way? I’m not asking you to identify what’s in your way because I want you to then just stop or throw up your hands or say, “Oh, well, we’ve got these barriers so we can’t do it.” Not at all. We need to identify where the barriers are so that we can be purposeful in developing a plan to work through, over, under or around those barriers. I think that when we identify the barriers at the outset…

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:24:04]

Michelle Nutter:

… But when we identified the barriers at the outset, that helps us be prepared when they do crop up. So that we’re not blindsided by a political or emotional or a financial barrier that we hadn’t anticipated now we’re having to respond in the moment. So I think if you do this at the outset, it really helps you be purposeful in your response. And I want to just say, the political and emotional barriers to doing this work are just as real as the financial, programmatic and managerial barriers, but we can’t ever allow politics or angry rhetoric or high emotions from stopping us from fixing the system and doing our very best by every student that we serve.

Michelle Nutter:

Next. So two things that we do at the Center for Education Equity, one is providing an equity audit tool. The link is the last bullet on the slide. You can download these tools and there’s three of them in the process. One is a criteria for equitable schools. One’s a criteria for equitable classrooms. And the last is teacher behaviors that encourage student persistence. So all three of these are checklists where the school team or the individual can go through and make an assessment as to whether this is something that we have in place in our school. We don’t have a place in our school or we’re working on it. And this process really is important because it allows schools to identify where those areas of need are. Which policies do we want to start with? Or what do we need to adjust within the curriculum? Or what do we need to do as far as our discipline code. Being able to go through these checklists really can provide schools with an opportunity to prioritize what work comes first.

Michelle Nutter:

Next. And so in addition to the equity audits, another piece that we do is specifically looking at school policies. Now, most states have either model policy that is embedded within their state school code or you have a statewide school board association that develops model policies that schools within that state are able to use for themselves. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with using those policies because they’re great, but the question is, were they developed using an equity lens? Are they culturally responsive? So it’s not just that they meet whatever your state school code is or your school law is. Do they also meet federal and state civil rights standards, statutes, and laws? Do they reflect evidence or research based principles demonstrating equitable outcomes for all students? Were they developed using a broad representation of stakeholders?

Michelle Nutter:

And I mentioned this earlier. One thing that I want to mention here is, often there will be policy development that whether it’s an internal, like the school itself wants to have parents as part of the committee, or it’s external, meaning that the state or the federal government is requiring you to have parental engagement. And sometimes we see that the school will say, “Oh, well, let’s have Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones is one of our fourth grade teachers, but she has kids in the district too. So then she checks both boxes. She’s a parent and she’s a teacher.” And again, nothing wrong and not trying to disparage Mrs. Jones in any way, but someone who works within the district, even as a parent, they’re still going to have a different perspective or a different lens than someone who is only a parent in the district. So I think it’s really important that when we’re looking at, do we have broad representation? That we’re looking across roles.

Michelle Nutter:

And again, trying to bring new people onto the team. And looking at parental engagement and student engagement and community member engagement and saying, “Is it representative of all the diversity that’s found within our district?” Because then we bring different perspectives and we identify a lot more needs and positives as well when we have that diverse representation in the group.

Michelle Nutter:

Culturally responsive policies often will identify who is responsible. You need to know who is taking point on making sure that whatever this policy says that we’re going to do really does make sure that it happens and establishes timeframes. So we’re going to do this within 18 months, or we’re going to do this within 36 months or whatever the timeframe is, but there’s always a point at which once that timeframe expires, someone has an accountability check to go back and say, “Okay, we said we were going to do this by October 2020, have we?” And if not, why not? And what do we need to do to make sure that we comply with that?

Michelle Nutter:

And then the last piece is around professional development. If a policy says we’re going to do something but we don’t require training in how to do it, chances are it’s either not going to get done or it’s going to be done in a very haphazard way. So if we say that teachers will intervene in bullying when they see it. Well, we need to make sure that teachers are trained to recognize bullying and trained in how to respond to bullying, just as an example. Making sure that we back it up. We make sure that there’s professional development so that we’re not leaving it up to whoever happens to be the staff member that sees what happens or hears what happens. We know that there is a coordinated response and it’s standardized and that we’re all doing things the right way

Michelle Nutter:

Next, please. So what type of policies should we examine? The short answer is, all of them. All of them. But to give you a list and it’s alphabetized, not by level of importance, but just some categories that we might want to look at. Just some examples, I’m not going to talk about all of them, but like under discipline, that might mean that we’re looking at the student code of conduct. We’re looking at suspension and expulsion policies. We’re looking at restorative discipline policies. We’re looking at PBIS policies. Under curriculum, that means we’re looking at special ed policies. And we’re looking at English language learner policies and student assessment policies and gifted and AP and honors and all of those different pieces. So this list is short, but it’s not exhaustive, it’s more the category.

Michelle Nutter:

Next slide. And that can be really overwhelming. So rather than trying to tackle all of them at once, if you ask me where should we start? The five areas that I have on the slide here, this is really where we recommend that you start. Take a look at your student code of conduct. What does your bullying and cyber bullying policy say and does it include protected class bullying and cyber bullying? How about the harassment? Sexual harassment and discrimination. I’ll be honest, we’ve worked with some schools where bullying, cyber bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination is all grouped into one policy. And in other schools, it’s five or six separate policies. It really doesn’t matter whether that’s one or multiple grouped together. The only downside that I see to having everything grouped together is that the policy can get really, really long and things might get lost in the weeds. But as long as the policies are written in a culturally responsive way, and they go into depth into each area, if they’re grouped together, that’s fine.

Michelle Nutter:

Looking at gifted and talented is important because this is an area that we often see disproportionality with regard to what students are enrolled in those gifted and talented classes. And I skipped over detention and expulsion, absolutely making sure that we understand what the policies say and have we looked at our demographic data? Because nationally, more children of color are expelled, suspended and expelled than their white peers. And so making sure that when we look, we’re also looking at data to back up. What are we doing? And if there are discrepancies, why are there discrepancies? Is the policy written in such a way that it is exacerbating those discrepancies or disproportionality?

Michelle Nutter:

Okay, that’s the quick tidbit of information that I have for you. I know that I packed a whole lot in there. And so I’m looking forward to answering any questions that you may have at the end, but Sherry, let me turn it back to you.

Sherry Williams:

Michelle, that was fantastic just like you. Excellent job. Really, really useful information that I think a lot of people are going to take back with them and get a lot out of. So up next, we have Dr. Daman Harris. We actually found Dr. Daman Harris when he had written a blog post that Alice and I were just really blown away by how great it was. He’s the principal of Wheaton Woods Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland. He’s the co-founder and co-leader of the Building Our Network of Diversity or Bond project. And that’s an organization that’s dedicated to supporting the recruitment, development, retention and empowerment of male educators of color. Dr. Harris is a certified reading specialist and a special educator with experience in academic support, student discipline, community outreach, technical assistance, and program evaluation. He’s also an adjunct instructor for McDaniel College and the University of Maryland at College Park, where he teaches courses related to effective teaching methods, conducting research and educational equity. Hi Damon.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Hey Sherry. And thank you, Sherry and Michelle and Alice and Carmen and everyone in the audience for allowing me to be a part of this conversation. I will talk a little bit about my school context in a second, but I’m in Montgomery County, Maryland where my school building is. And I just want to recognize some of my folks. I saw a couple of names that I recognized in the participant lists. [Lilian Cherrick 00:36:19] and [Norco Padilla 00:00:36:20] are some of my sisters in Montgomery County. I also saw Lorenzo Hughes who works in [inaudible 00:36:27] County nearby to us who is one of my bond brothers. And I’m appreciative of your presence here today, family.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And you can think of what I’m going to tell you in my school as a case study for the early stages of what Michelle described. My school, we’re at the stage where we’re thinking to ourselves, what we’ve been doing isn’t working and we need to change, but how are we going to do that? First I’ll describe my school context a little bit, and then I’ll share what shaped our current sense of urgency about the work. And then I’ll talk a little bit about some of the early vision casting that I’m doing with my staff. Is not quite as detailed as goal making or goal setting. And lastly, I’ll share some of the reflections that we’re having in this early stage in the process. Next slide, please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So Wheaton Woods Elementary School is in Montgomery County, as I said. It’s in the Washington, DC suburbs, just to the Northwest we border DC. My school itself has 524 kids or [inaudible 00:37:39] about 524 kids from pre-K to fifth grade. In any given year, about two thirds of us are Latinx, about another quarter are African-American. And then there’s a smattering of some other racial and ethnic subgroups that are in there. Anywhere between a half to two thirds in a given year are students who are first or second generation from central and South America. And that 25% of African-American is primarily students from Northeast Africa first or second generation from Ethiopia or Eritrea. And more than half of our students every year are English learners. And probably four-fifths of our students were English learners at some point in their educational careers, even if they aren’t currently.

Dr. Daman Harris:

About four-fifths of our students are eligible to receive free and reduced meals, but we still have many of our students who show up every day to learn and grow. And our test scores on our state tests, we take [PAC 00:38:44] In Maryland. Sorry we don’t. We take the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program which is not [inaudible 00:38:53] as PAC, but that is… We’re right around 40% proficiency most years in ELA and math. We have a bunch of partnerships with different community partners like churches and social service agencies. I met with one today, as we walked around campus to think about some new projects we could do with the food distribution to stop the food deficit in my community. Next slide, please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So now I’ll talk about the turning point that I’ve had in my leadership. I’ve been a teacher or an educator at some point for about 25 years since ’96, and I’ve done equity work in one form or another since about 2001. And if you don’t count all teaching as equity work like I do, I just didn’t know that at the time. So I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two decades, the better part of two decades, trying to educate myself on the content. And I think the turning point really occurred with this new framework of thinking, new frame of mind, last fall, last winter of the 2020 school year. And I was reading books related to hate and racism in the [inaudible 00:40:12] proficiency like For White Folks who Teach in the Hood by Chris Emdin or Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi, Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility.

Dr. Daman Harris:

There were a lot of books that were informing my thinking, but I think the book that that changed my inertia, it really moved me was, How to be an Anti-racist by Ibram Kendi. And it really was a lot around Kendi’s concept of anti-racist versus not racist. It really resonated with me. So I used to allow folks to think, and I thought to an agree to. I viewed myself as an anti racist as if it was a static characteristic. When in fact, according to Kendi and it resonated with me, I was probably being more racist than I was anti racist, definitely at times. So Kendi thinks about it as, you’re either operating in a way that is deconstructing the systems of oppression, or you are not. So you are either anti-racist doing [inaudible 00:41:20] to deconstruct these systems or you’re being racist.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And that is a day by day, hour by hour decision by decision sort of a characteristic and concept. Ann that moved me. And so I shared with my staff during the winter. Hey, it used to be okay… I got into this profession to change the world, I did. And it used to be okay for me to be around folks. If you on my staff, joined the profession for other reasons, as long as you weren’t doing harm to kids. So if you said, [inaudible 00:42:01] I just love to work with kids. I always wanted to be a teacher. And then I thought, okay, well, I can change the world by helping these students through helping these teachers help these students. And it made sense at the time. And now my thought was, I need to do change not just my students, I need to change the system in which my students are growing and learning and working.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And I need staff members who have the same mindset. Who are willing to take that same journey. So it wasn’t enough for you to just love kids. I need you to change our system in a way that changes the lives of our kids and their outcomes and our opportunities. And I shared that with my staff in the winter so that folks before we had our voluntary transfer season, so that people who might want a new setting, because any races work, at least in my vision, wasn’t for them, they had time to find another place to be. And it was encouraging for me and for my assistant principal, Liz Collins, that we didn’t have anyone leave for that reason. We did have some folks leave who were promoted, but we didn’t have anyone leave, that said, “I need a different space to work because I don’t want to do this any races work.” So that was awesome for us.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And I made a public declaration of intent in a couple of ways. So in one way, shared my thoughts with my boss. So we are a very large district. We’re probably we’re about 14 or 15 in terms of size in the country. About 165,000 kids or so. So there are several layers between the superintendent and me. So I didn’t share this with him, but I shared it with my boss to let her know my thoughts so that she could push back on my thinking, poke some holes in my theories of action. And we could talk through some of this. And I thank Jim Webster for that. I also thought that it would help prepare her in case there was any potential pushback from my teachers staff or the teacher’s union, other folks in central office, or even folks in the community. Because I have folks on Twitter who were telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this work.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So, that was one public declaration of intent that I made. I also made a statement to my community and it was when the George Floyd murder occurred. I sent a letter out to our community, letting our community know that we were committing to anti racist focus for the foreseeable future. And after I did that, there wasn’t any turning back. And I focused on some of my staff members and some of my colleagues by creating some co-conspirators and which is different than allies. Allies can tweet and send you thoughts and prayers when things happen and tell you how sorry they are and attend the occasional rally, that sort of thing. But I really needed people who were going to work with us to change the system. And that’s a scary proposition in a lot of cases. So I needed those types of folks.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So all my staff, which is comprised mostly of white women, and there was several people who were motivated already, but there are folks who were motivated to do the work once they saw the George Floyd murder and they wanted to take action. So we definitely met this summer with a lot of them. And we started planning some activities that were aligned, that they could do, that they wanted to do, that they were aligned with our school’s new focus. Outside of my building, I also cultivated some co-conspirators with leveraging some of the relationships that I have with organizations such as the Bond project, as you see my lapel pin there. And as well as McDaniel College’s equity and excellence in education program leaders, Heather [inaudible 00:46:32] and Elena Marie. The folks were really helpful in informing my plans for my school and poking some holes in my thinking and pushing me to revise ways that I was going to present this information to my staff. Next slide please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So I started with the vision casting to my staff and I shared this picture storyboard and many of you have probably seen this before. So my staff and I, we talked about this and we critiqued it a little. So we thought about how the fence represents those policies and practices or the oppression that some of our students bump up against it. And it made sense. We said, “Hey, we can focus on that.” What caused that fence to be there and what can cause that fence to go away? How can we provide more opportunities? But during our discussions, we also came to the conclusion that these images, like Michelle said earlier, they problematize not only the fence, but they problematize the people in this image. So according to this panel, some people need help because they don’t have the same skills and abilities as other people. That’s not what we want to do. That’s not the message that I wanted to send and …

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:48:04]

Dr. Daman Harris:

That’s not what we want to do. That’s not the message that I wanted to send and that we as a staff wanted to send. It also doesn’t represent other issues of inequality like why aren’t the kids sitting in the people sitting in the stands? Why aren’t they playing the game? Why aren’t they making the rules? Why do they look like stereotypical males, right? Where are the other folks? So there are other issues that made this image more problematic. One of my other staff members share with me the image that Michelle shared earlier. Next slide, please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Now this slide got us a little bit closer, right? And Michelle shared a metaphor of this being an issue of not the people having an issue but the system having an issue and it’s the system that needs to be repaired, not the people. It made total sense to us. Through some further conversation with some of my school leaders we say, “Hey, these images they are better but they’re still not accurate.” For instance a tree is a natural occurrence. So that tree just happened to been that way but these racial inequalities. They are not accidental, they are by design and doing the work on this system is not as easy as just putting up a couple of braces. So it’s going to call, it’s going to make us have to do a lot of self-examination, a lot of public work, a lot of private work in order to make this change.

Dr. Daman Harris:

It also doesn’t look at the roots of the issue, right? It looks at the outer aspect or the outcomes. So it doesn’t represent some of those broader systems of oppression like someone coming over to discover that tree and take half the apples, right? Or someone’s a boss or some shareholders or someone coming along and taking the apples from these folks and making them split two apples rather than all the apples in the tree. Right. Or if either of these two people complain or protest about their mistreatment with this system then perhaps law enforcement will get involved and do something negatively to those folks. So there are a lot of issues with the image but it got us closer to the foundation of our thinking. Next slide please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And so when we look at the racial inequalities that we are seeing in our system, right? So we talked to my staff and said, Hey, we tried a bunch of different things. We tried new curriculum, we tried all kinds of things and our kids and their families in our school community still ends up in all the bottom of it, the bottom of all the bad list or the bottom of all the good list, the top of all the bad list. So if we are seeing that those racial inequalities are a problem and those racial inequalities are caused because at some point I told my staff, we had to think this stuff because this is happening for generations.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So we either have to believe that there is something wrong with our kids and their families that put them at the bottom of those lists, for the goodness and the top of all the bad list, or there’s something wrong with the system that recreates this system that puts them on the bottom. And so those racial inequalities are caused by the system, right? These racist policies and practices. And those policies and practices are embedded and founded upon the concept of white supremacy and racism and should we focus just on the inequalities, right? Those inequities, should we be focused on the racism, the white supremacy in the form of these policies and practices?

Dr. Daman Harris:

So I told my staff we’re going to shift our language a little bit and have not just a focus solely on equity because that’s focusing solely on the symptoms and not the disease itself, right? It’s sort of like racism and white supremacy is the operate the system and our focus up to then was really on how to use the apps on an operating system. But if we don’t update the operating system then the performance of applications will always be limited. So using apps, right? I’m just air quoting apps like new curriculum, academic interventions, social emotional learning. I heard Michelle mentioned Greg earlier, all those things that weren’t designed to combat racism, all those pieces, all those concepts, all those programs, all those systems weren’t designed to like Paul Gorski said, they weren’t designed to deal with racism. Those are apps, if we don’t deal with the operating system then change is a far way off. Next slide please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So we started thinking through like, Hey, we can’t change our whole county, our whole state, our whole country. We can’t do, we don’t know that’s a lot on which to focus. And what we did was said, we are going to focus on our sphere of influence which is our school building and our surrounding community. Now we’ll do the work by partnering with other folks to do work on a broader scale like I’m doing now, but we know we own what happens in our building and in our community. So that’s where we are definitely going to dig in, no excuses. And so the immediate issue in front of us was content knowledge, Michelle mentioned this earlier. We need folks that understand this content, we need folks to understand race, racism and our places in it.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Michelle said that our lens is like, she used that the equity lens, right? Our lenses shape how we see problems and their respective solutions. So now if we are using some anti-racist content knowledge it will calibrate our lenses in ways that sharpen our apertures on the systems and outputs related to inequities and racial inequalities. Like we’ll focus more on deficits in our system rather than deficits in groups of people who share a common characteristics like race or immigration status, because that’s what our students and our families encounter on a regular basis.

Dr. Daman Harris:

But that meant and that means currently that our folks need to know about those equity detours. We talked through that as the staff, they need to know about white racial identity development but other racial identity development models also. They need to know about white supremacy culture and those characteristics and their remedies, right? They need to be able to recognize the inherent strengths of our students, their families and our school community. They need to be able to plan, implement and evaluate constantly responsive instruction. They need to be able to connect this learning to that they’re doing this content knowledge to ways that they support our students and their families in the school community. Next slide.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So we are likely to spend this school year in that content knowledge area and start moving toward application in the later part of this year in the spring. Next year that intermediate target is critical consciousness and that’s the Paulo Freire concept of once you have knowledge and the skill, like the knowledge about what’s happening and you can see it and determine some causes. Now you also need the skills to be able to do something to counteract what’s happening and you need the initiative or the motivation to take action to apply that knowledge and skills. So that’s where we want to be by the end of next school year and it could happen sooner with different staff members who are a little further along the process but they’ve been studying this work a little longer.

Dr. Daman Harris:

I thought this was the way to go and it’s really based in part on McDaniel College’s equity and excellence education program where folks spend a lot of time with the content knowledge and reflecting on their own sort of presence, remember talking about racial identity development and their own space location within that content knowledge. And then they learn about the inequities in the system, the inequalities in the system and those policies and practices that led to them and then you take some action on all those things. So we found that in order for our staff to know about policies and practices that affect our kids, their families and their communities, they need to be able to know and make connections to those stakeholders. So that’s why we are going to be participating in community events.

Dr. Daman Harris:

I’m not sure how that’ll look in our new environment but we’re going to figure it out. So participate like in a meal or a religious service or a sports game or a music, or going to see our kids in the theater, we have a kid who dances at the Kennedy Center every year. Those types of things, family gatherings with the students families, community center visits, that’s how we’re going to learn about our families because we sometimes get stuck in Hey, they are Latinx so Latinx people think this, El Salvadorian people think this or people from Ethiopia think this. Those are nationalities, those aren’t cultures. So we need to know about our kids and their families in particular and those cultures and the things that are affecting them. And that’s how we’ll be able to identify some things that are going wrong related to some of these policies and practices in our school, in our district and in our surrounding community and now lead folks to be able to take some action and create some policy or practice solutions to those issues. Next slide.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And where we need to go with this is to raise students who are in this work for themselves. So we need them ultimately to be able to identify some things that are wrong and dedicate themselves to trying to fix it with our support. Our students are more than capable doing that work. We have to do the work on ourselves before we can expect them to do the work with our health. Next slide please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So as I said I shared some of my stuff with some critical friends like Dr. Darryl Howard and Kenny Smith and Heather Yuhanic and Elena Marie and some other folks I’m probably forgetting, my assistant principal Liz Collins. And how do you [handshake 01:01:15] ? She said, “Dude, you wrote a lot of words? You need a concept diagram to talk to folks about so you can show them where you go. And so I created this concept diagram that walks folks through the first two years of our experience together. This is the trajectory at the… This was what the plan was early on.

Dr. Daman Harris:

When we said we’re going to start with just understanding whiteness, because most of my staff is white, and other forms of racial identity development. And then we’re going to move towards white supremacy culture, their characteristics and understanding what that is and what we can do about it. Moving all the way up toward the top of those stairs where we see critical consciousness as I described it earlier. And year three will be the year that we plan for our students to enter the next few steps and cultivate students who are able to do this work on their own with demand. Next slide, please.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And so in these early stages of this process, we’re really been thinking about some of the things we’ve been experiencing and one of them is the density of the content, right? And it is intense and it is dense at times. So I had a, I still have a professional learning action plan that steps along the way and resources and readings and pre readings and outcomes for the next year. And I had to adjust it because we couldn’t get through some of this content in a way that allow people to adjust it themselves and then process it collectively as the group. So some things I thought we could get done in an hour it could take us multiple hours. So we have to chunk some of these activities into smaller pieces and just extend my timeline a little bit.

Dr. Daman Harris:

I also had to use multiple platforms, so recording some Zooms so folks could indulge, use a Padlet so folks could share ideas, give advance reading to staff who wanted to read a couple of weeks in advance so that they could be prepared to have high quality intellectual conversations. I also had to make sure we created some safe spaces, not just for folks to be able to talk in the group and big groups, but also spaces for folks to come and talk to me because I had some of my staff come to me and say, “Hey, look, when you said this, this is the impact it had on me.” And I need to create a space and a culture where we can do that for each other. So we are still in the process of community building, it is in the early part of the year, a lot of our staff know each other. This content is a little different than what we’ve had so folks have had to be vulnerable in ways that they haven’t had to in the past.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Another thing that’s really been key for us is balancing the perspectives that are centered and here’s what I mean. So there are oftentimes we center our embraces conversations in whiteness. We don’t like Gorski, I know you told them equity detours that Michelle shared earlier, Gorski sometimes shares he wrote I think in that article. That can be an issue, waiting for people to get ready or fearing that they’re going to be uncomfortable or trying to say, well, how do you feel about this? That’s what’s important, your intent, not the impact on the kids. So sometimes we can run away from centering things on whiteness and these kinds of conversations if we do it too often. But in my building we absolutely have to center whiteness some of the time in order to create teachable moments for my staff that’s mostly white, right? But we’re also careful to send our perspectives on other racial groups and later on it’ll be other diversity groups as well and not just race.

Dr. Daman Harris:

I’m still working on trying to cultivate some other anti-racist leaders in my building because this is not content that everybody feels comfortable in terms of having a high level of knowledge. So they’re not always comfortable with leading others and walking through this discomfort and lack of knowing. So I’m working on my core team of leaders in my building like my staff development teacher Margie O’Brian and my reading specialist, Tracy Arturo. I’m still working on our folks there, I’m working on my school leadership team, I’m working on some rank and file staff members, community members.

Dr. Daman Harris:

We’re going to get to where we’re getting kids involved in this so we’re going to be creating some anti-racist leaders all along the way. The other thing is that we’re going to be keeping this… The reason why I own this work as the principal is I know I can keep this work on the front burner of our school. Yes, it’s a pandemic. Yes, our families are experiencing economic despair. Yes, there are political elections coming up. Yes, we have new curricula. Yes, there’s this thing that happened and any racism is still going to be your focus here in our building. So I know I can do that. So no matter what else happens I own this work, that’s what we’re going to do. Next slide.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And I’ll just leave you here with a few questions. Oftentimes when folks talk about doing any racist work or equity work I say, okay, well we’ll do a book study with our leadership team. We’ll do a book study with my fellow colleagues, my other principals, or my other you name the position. That that is admirable. So we also need to go beyond book studies and that means you’re going to need to be able to articulate your anti-racist vision for your organization. You’re going to have to do a self-assessment on what you need to facilitate movement toward that vision.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And that means you’re going to commit to doing the work on yourself and not just the other people in your organization, a bunch of finger pointing to people who are doing wrong in your view. You have to recognize that you are doing wrong and you need to get better as well. We all fall short. Thank you for your time. I’ll turn it back over to Sherri.

Sherry Williams:

Wow. That was fantastic just like you Daman. Really, really lot of good chat. A lot of people really interested and we have quite a few questions. So I’m going to ask David and Michelle to turn on their cameras and their microphones and I will read some of the questions we have in our Q and A box. If you have questions we haven’t addressed yet, feel free to type them in there we’ve got a little bit of time to answer them. You guys ready?

Dr. Daman Harris:

Yes Ma’am.

Sherry Williams:

Excellent. Okay. I’m going to start with Michelle. Can you address your work with equity with children under five as well and these equity audits I assume is what they’re referencing, can you do those in childcare agencies as well as in schools?

Michelle:

I think, yes. You might have to adapt a little bit. I think the one that would be really helpful is the teacher behaviors one because I don’t think it matters if you’re teaching the real little littles or the really big bigs, right? What am I doing in my practice as a teacher that I am creating that opportunity for all students to feel safe and feel valued and feel respected and feel empowered. And what are my teaching practices so that if I see that there are disparities or discrepancies, what am I doing to ensure that we can close those gaps?

Sherry Williams:

Excellent. Thank you. So Daman here’s a really good one for you. Aside from working with your teachers have you engaged with other education support professionals in your building? Like bus drivers, food service workers, any of your other staff really?

Dr. Daman Harris:

No. Well, my lunch recess or my lunch aides, yes, because they’re in my building every day. I don’t see my bus drivers. So our bus drivers we have partnered with them for materials distribution to our students, incorporated them into this work so that would be great. I mean our support professionals in terms of our pair educators, they are co-teachers in his work so they are absolutely a part of these conversations. We also have community-school liaison, parent community coordinator. So we have a number of folks in our building who are dedicated to doing this work in one way or another because it affects all of us. Oh, not the support folks from outside of our building much like bus drivers.

Michelle:

Well maybe once the movement takes hold you will extend.

Dr. Daman Harris:

That is terrific. Yeah, that is possible.

Michelle:

Expand your boundaries out, sure. And that’s how we’ll take over the world Daman. Michelle, another question for you. What if the people that we need to hear from don’t want to come to the table? How do you get people to speak up in order to start the process of fixing this system?

Dr. Daman Harris:

Yeah, that’s a great question. When…

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:12:04]

Michelle Nutter:

When a school starts doing equity work, I think it’s pretty common for the people who are aligned to come to the table first, right? So, you have folks who are already invested, who already see the need for this, but that’s probably not going to be the majority of the people. When you look at starting any new type of work, you have different types of adopters. You have innovators, the people who are eager to try new things. You have leaders who, they’re willing not only to do the work, but to lead the work and they have the trust of others. And then you get the people who, “I’m cautious, I’m not sure about it. How do I come in board?” You get some that are skeptical. Like, “Oh, I just don’t know about this. I want to see some results before I commit to it.” And then in any effort, you’re going to have resistors who are opposed to the ideas and don’t want any part of it.

Michelle Nutter:

I loved what Daman was saying when he took on this vision, part of that was, if you’re not willing to be on the same page and doing this work that needs to be done, then perhaps this is not the organization for you, right? Because when you look at focusing on equity, on being anti-racist, I love Daman’s comments. It’s not enough to just be not racist. You have to be actively anti-racist. Because you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. If you’re just sitting and watching, you’re part of the problem, right? So, I think that in some cases, you get to that point where if you’re not willing to be engaged in this work … I think for educators, I think we have an ethical duty to reach our students and to do our best by all students. So, to me, that goes right into the whole, are you really doing your job if you’re not willing to embrace the ideas of equity and being anti-racist and making sure that your students are receiving the education, the supports, the interventions, everything they need to succeed to their highest ability?

Sherry Williams:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I think that’s spot on. Totally agree. Okay. This one, I guess, could go for either one of you. What are your recommendations for schools or school districts that say, “We don’t have a community of color here?”

Michelle Nutter:

Well, I think that means you need to do the work even more, right? Because we are preparing kids to be successful in the world around them. Even if you live in a community that doesn’t have a lot of diversity, the chances that your students are just going to stay in that same environment for the rest of their lives is pretty low, right? We want our kids to be successful. We know that the more we expose them to learning about other people and other cultures and other backgrounds and other religions and the other, other, other, other, right? The more they are able to interact in positive ways with others, and the more that they’re able to act positively with others, the more successful they will be in life.

Sherry Williams:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Daman Harris:

If you continue to stoke those flames of curiosity and connection and a thirst for connection with others who are different than you in a bunch of different ways, not just racially, then you are going to be breaking down these walls that we have between each other right now.

Michelle Nutter:

Absolutely.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So, if nothing else, if you get folks to start getting information from different sources, you’re going to change our world. This work is everybody’s work. These policies and practices are everybody’s work. These conversations? Everybody’s having them. It doesn’t matter their color.

Sherry Williams:

Yeah. Someone in the chat said cultivating anti-racists of the future, which I think is just a fantastic way to think of that.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Here, our student member of the board, the Board of Education, Nick Asante, my group The BOND Project does… And you can find us at bondeducators.org. But we do a workshop with some kids and we had our student member of the board come and talk to our kids. And he said, “I know people will tell you that you are the leaders of the future.” He said, “I’m here to tell you, you are the leaders of today.” Right? So, yes, it’s good to do it for the future, but these kids, they’re prepared to lead right now.

Sherry Williams:

Great. Daman, here’s another question for you. So, “How do you balance the conversation around anti-racism with your white staff so that they don’t feel targeted but feel enlightened?”

Dr. Daman Harris:

Yeah. So, we talked a little bit during the winter using the anchor of Robert DiAngelo’s White Fragility. So, where we said, “Hey, there.” I started with saying, “I’m racist, too.” Not every scholar who studies anti-racism believes that the folks who are out of power can be racist. But I do. I believe that. Kenny really struck a chord with me in that sense as well. But so I started with saying, “I’m racist too at times, and I had to do the work on me also at times.” The other piece of this though, was our conversation using Robin DiAngelo’s work with White Fragility is folks often get stuck in like, “I’m afraid that if I do this thing that is racist or has racist outcomes or implications, that that makes me a racist. That makes me evil, and it makes me an redeemable person who should be thrown away.” That is not the case, right?

Dr. Daman Harris:

We are all human beings walking this path, right? Towards our collective enlightenment, so to speak. So, nobody’s getting thrown off our road together. We’re walking holding hands. So, it’s okay to make a mistake and we’ll hold each other accountable and we’ll move forward from there. I also told them, “I don’t want us to stay in guilt because guilt is not going to fix what’s going on in this system.” So, you can act guilty if you want and you’ll cry if you need to. I get it. We’re moving on this work. So, go through all that and let’s get to work.

Sherry Williams:

Excellent. Thank you. So, here’s a question for Daman. “Did you use the word anti-racist in the communication to staff and families and how do you shape that type of communication?”

Dr. Daman Harris:

No, there’s no shaping it. So, I use anti-racism. I use white supremacy. I use racism. This is what it is. So, we’re not going to dance around these issues. If I have a hammer and I’m trying to describe what it is, instead of just telling you it’s a hammer, nah. This is the work. So, you can’t get there if you’re not ready to use the language. Now that doesn’t mean that my white teachers are evil. It doesn’t mean that my black teachers are evil, any more than the work we were doing before was saying my kids were evil. This is the work. So, yeah, I sent it to everybody. I put it on our website. I sent it out in an email to the community. I put it in a blog. I said it on a different talk. Anybody who wants it, I’m about that talk. So, we can talk about it with anybody.

Sherry Williams:

Yeah. Your blog was actually the thing that led us to you because when Alice and I read that, we were really excited to invite you to come and speak to our members. This one can be for both of you, Michelle or Daman. “How do you bring families to the table when they’re skeptical?”

Dr. Daman Harris:

I-

Michelle Nutter:

I-

Dr. Daman Harris:

Oh, go ahead, Michelle.

Michelle Nutter:

Okay, you go ahead.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So, we haven’t encountered skepticism. I’ve encountered more folks saying, “The pandemic is an issue in my community and virtual learning and distance learning is the issue. Help me with that.” The only feedback I’ve gotten related to sharing, like a sharing back to school night or at some of these open houses we do, I share this work too so our staff is doing this, it’s all been positive from our community. So, I haven’t bumped into people who have said, “We are not supportive of this endeavor.” Unless it’s on Twitter. I have had people on Twitter saying that to me.

Sherry Williams:

Twitter is evil. For sure.

Dr. Daman Harris:

I don’t know enough about that to be able to engage in a productive way, so I just block it.

Michelle Nutter:

And I would just add to that, that I think that one way that you can best fight skepticism… I mean, because this can be really real, right? Where a school has said, “We’re going to do this,” or an organization has said, “We’re going to do this,” and they haven’t done a good job at it. That happens. I think what we need to do is just be honest, be transparent, show your heart, and then be consistent moving forward, right? I think it’s important that where there is skepticism, that you walk towards that conversation and say, “Okay, what are your concerns? Because if I don’t know what your concerns are, the chances of me fixing it just hopefully decrease.”

Michelle Nutter:

I think it is important that, especially when you’re talking about equity, if you have folks who say, “Hey, you said you were going to fix achievement gaps in the past, but you didn’t do that. So, why should I trust you now?” Right? I think we have to, like I said, be honest, admit where mistakes may have been made or what you didn’t look at and how we’re going to move forward and fix it moving forward.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And if I could add a couple more things. So, one is one person’s skepticism is another person’s information seeking. One of the things that we talked about was Glenn Singleton’s Courageous Conversations on Race with our race compass, who said, “Hey, when we have these types of conversations, folks are entering from different places. So, we need to be able to recognize that it’s okay, right? You don’t have to assume negative intent from someone who’s asking a question about the content and seeking information.” Recognize that that’s where they are and you were coming from a different place because the key for us is the dialogue. So, it’s the chew on these concepts together. People, you can probably tell here, I like to talk. I talk a lot. I like to say stuff. I’m good at saying stuff. I’m not always good at saying the right stuff. I just want [inaudible 01:23:40] about that. So, I need you, I need us to be together because we’re starting together. Push back on the stuff I’m telling you. If you don’t believe it, let’s talk about it. Let’s look at some disconfirming evidence.

Sherry Williams:

That’s a great point, too. The pushback often helps us think through problems we may have that we don’t know about.

Michelle Nutter:

Definitely.

Sherry Williams:

So, I think that’s really important.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And one last thing.

Sherry Williams:

Sure.

Dr. Daman Harris:

One last thing I want to add is getting the voice of our kids. We had some high school kids at an artist colony’s program, thanks to Lauren Hurley who brought the kids through, and they talked to our staff about microaggressions from a kids point of view and staff were speechless, some of them teary. So, that’s another way, too. The voices of our babies are critical.

Sherry Williams:

That’s awesome. Michelle, here’s a question for you. “To address equity, we need to have data that breaks down by race, ethnicity, language, other things, but many school districts don’t have enough data to understand disparities. So, how do you recommend that they address that?”

Michelle Nutter:

Well, I think that districts probably have a lot more information than they may think that they have. What does your attendance data say? What does your discipline data say? Maybe you’re not keeping track of these things through an automated program. Maybe you’re still using paper and office referrals or whatever. That could be possible, but you have it somewhere. Now the task is looking at it and examining your graduation data, examining your expulsion and suspension data, examining your special ed data. You have to report those things to the state, so you’ve got information, but maybe not looking at it from an equity lens, right? Because with, say, discipline, schools have to report to the state Department of Ed their discipline.

Michelle Nutter:

If that’s all you’re doing with it, you’re just putting it in but you’re never then looking at it to break it down, to see by race, by gender, by ethnicity, by grade, by all these different identifiers, if we’re not examining it, we’re missing the opportunity to do better, right? Because we know that there’s a lot of pieces of dress codes and the student codes of conduct and things that really have a disparate impact on children of color, particularly. If we’re not digging into that data to say, “Why is it that X percent of our dress code violations are young men and women of color?” then we’re not taking the time to then tighten up that dress code so that it is not disproportionately impacting students.

Dr. Daman Harris:

And if someone is not tracking that data, then they need to be held accountable. Get some folks in your community to organize and that’s low hanging fruit if you’re thinking about being anti-racist. Organize, because that’s by design.

Sherry Williams:

Excellent. Daman, here’s a question for you. “What happens if people get stuck in the knowledge phase? What’s the plan to move to step two?”

Dr. Daman Harris:

So, it is in part going to be individual conversations with folks. In part, it’ll be target setting. So, what I’ve said to my staff is your job is to identify either individually or in small groups of staff members, are to identify somebody’s policies or practices that are causing racial inequities in our building. So, we are going to get in hubs and have these conversations. Looking at the data that we were discussing, right? I’ll give you an example in my school, right? And I’m a guy doing this talk.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So, I went to look for a book this summer for one of our Asian students. I don’t have many Asian students in my building. Out of 500, we may have 15, 20 Asian students on any given year. It took me 40 minutes to find a book in my book room that had an Asian main character on this kid’s reading level. That’s unacceptable, right? That type of stuff. So, I shared that experience with my staff. That’s stuff that we should know already. That’s on my watch, right? So, I actually know that, but we don’t have a policy in place that checks such things. We will now. Those types of things, all of our staff can do.

Sherry Williams:

Excellent. I think we have time for one more question. “What do you do when the leadership is staffed with people who are not interested or open to addressing the issue of equity?” I assume this is coming from someone who’s probably a teacher in a building and feels like it’s important, but the leadership is not supportive.

Dr. Daman Harris:

So hard. I’d say a couple of different things. One is to have the data, right? And compile it in a way that you’d be able to present, “These are the numbers,” right? So, you can call it what you want, all right? If we want to argue about whether we call it racism, white supremacy or equity but you see where this discipline data, this suspension data, this attendance data, this test data, we see that this is an issue. What are we going to do about it? The other side of that is the organization, and that organizing may be with other teachers in your building, maybe other staff members in your school district. It may be that you create your own space. So, the group that I’m with, we found that there was a lack of support and connection among men of color in education. So, we started our own thing, and now we push the envelope across the country in doing that work, supporting men of color in education. So, it may be that you organize in a way that creates something totally new.

Michelle Nutter:

I totally agree with Daman. Those are excellent. I would just also say that if you believe that there are policies or practices or whatever that are specifically designed or being implemented in a way that is holding kids back or creating disparate situations, file a complaint. File with your state Human Relations Commission. File with the Office for Civil Rights out of US Department of Ed. Or, I mean, there’s been a number of school districts across the state where parents go to the media and say, “Hey, we observed this is happening and we tried to talk to our school leadership and nothing’s being done about it, and we would like some answers.” Sometimes that’s the route that you have to go to make sure that people are held accountable and are doing the right thing.

Sherry Williams:

Yeah. We have to start to shake things up if we’re all going to be anti-racists. It’s important to get off the sidelines. Michelle Nutter, Dr. Daman Harris, thank you both so much. This has been really enlightening and informative. I want to remind everyone that we have two more sessions in this series. In the next session, we’ll be talking about engaging immigrant families. We will have some really great speakers then as well. And then we’re going to have a special treat for you. We’re going to have a panel of parent leaders who are going to talk about parent advocacy for equitable policy and practice. They’ve all done some really amazing work in their own communities, so we’re really excited to share that with you.

Sherry Williams:

Carmen, thank you as well for participating today. Carmen has posted a link in the chat box for everyone. If you wouldn’t mind, take the survey when we’re done today so we can use that information to really bring you guys the best kind of content that is most relevant for the work that you do. Thank you guys again so much for joining us. I hope everybody has a happy and healthy and safe day. We will see you on October 7th. Thank you for joining us.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you. Bye-bye.

Dr. Daman Harris:

Bye, everyone.

Dr. Daman Harris:

(silence)

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:34:45]

 

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