An example of the School of Education’s extensive collaboration with regional school districts, as well as its commitment to inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist education, the Study Council’s 2021-2022 CNY Book Study was ended May 18.
This year’s book – “Five Practices for Equity-Focused School Leadership” (ASCD, 2021), co-authored by Professor George Theoharis – was a timely choice, particularly in light of the call for New York State Department of Education’s April 2021 action “for all schools in New York State to develop policies that make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a priority in their schools.”
“So many districts are addressing DEI issues in their strategic goals, it was a good time to bring this to member districts,” says Leela George, professor in the School of Education’s Department of Teaching and Leadership and executive director of the Study Council.
The right thing to do
Deputy Superintendent Joseph DeBarbieri of the Baldwinsville Central School District represents one of 24 central New York school districts involved in the year-long book study initiative, which is meeting online. DeBarbieri, student at the Ed.D. from the School of Education. in the Educational Leadership Program, offers three reasons for his decision to enroll along with 30 of his district administrators.
First, after Theoharis shared his new book with his doctoral students, DeBarbieri says he bought it for his administrative team and began a district-wide equity audit, one of the steps practices towards equity-focused leadership suggested by the book’s co-authors.
“We’ve seen inequities in Baldwinsville, such as student access to accelerated programs,” says DeBarbieri. “There are no students of color in these programs despite our open enrollment practice, and we started asking, ‘Why is there no attendance now when there is? had in the past? “”
DeBarbieri also notes that the Baldwinsville CSD School Board has joined the district’s DEI effort in requiring trustees to conduct equity audits with respect to board goals. “It reinforced our need to study the book with our trustees.”
Additionally, the NYSED’s call to action was, in DeBarbieri’s words, “the right thing to do.” “All students should have the opportunity and access to an education that meets their needs. NYSED’s Culturally Appropriate Framework is about how students see themselves in the curriculum and teaching. »
Move in the same direction
During the 2021-2022 CNY Book Study Meetings, Professor Theoharis typically began with an overview of one of the five equity-focused school leadership practices outlined in his book, offering his own perspectives, data and stories. Then the 232-person study group split into district-level teams to brainstorm ideas. “Sometimes the participants were divided into small mixed groups so that the districts could get along,” explains George.
“There’s a benefit to having multiple school districts involved,” adds DeBarbieri. “It helps us see what other districts are doing.” Moreover, he says, a region-wide effort is essential “because progress can be slowed in a smaller setting. Many people need to move in the same direction to change practices.
Specifically, DeBarbieri says the Baldwinsville School District is studying the representation of its populations in various programs, such as fine arts, athletics and crash courses, as well as the disproportionate representation of minority populations in disciplinary matters.
Although DeBarbieri admits that the current national political climate — of activist parents protesting school board meetings, book bans, and so-called “Don’t Say Gay” state laws — is not conducive to this work. , “our effort is to educate the community and our staff about what fairness means. It’s not hard to advocate for change once you’ve seen the data. We’re letting people know that we’re no longer the same school district as 10 years ago.
A multi-perspective lens
The need to educate stakeholders about equitable and inclusive education is part of what inspired Superintendent Donna DeSiato G’04 – 2021-2021 New York State Superintendent of the Year and Chair of the Council of study – to enroll in an inter-agency leadership team from her Syracuse-Minoa East Central School District.
“It is our responsibility to educate students and the community so that we can meet the learning and developmental needs of all our students, especially the social and emotional learning needs that have arisen due to the pandemic. of coronavirus,” says DeSiato, holder of an Ed. RÉ. in instructional leadership. “We need to look at all of this through a multi-perspective lens, and this work helps us do that.”
DeSiato says studying the five equity-focused school leadership practices during the CNY Book Study fits well with her district’s strategic planning efforts. “We were already looking through the lens of DEI in our planning looking at disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic status,” she says.
“Studying the book has been a worthwhile endeavor,” notes DeSiato. “This includes the fact that we have time set aside for our team to meet and reflect on the chapters and how to apply meaningful lessons to our plan to move it forward.”
DeBarbieri says that, in the wake of the CNY book study, he will encourage building-level administrators in Baldwinsville to do similar work, including their own equity audits and the development of equity leadership teams. . “In order to support this transformation process, we need all stakeholders to be involved. Our work will grow exponentially with trained leaders going through the same process at the building level,” he says.
Given the need for continued, transformational change in school districts across the region, Theoharis says equity leadership work will continue next school year and may evolve into a community monitoring group of practice.
This group will form a community of support to help put into practice the strategies of the “Five Practices for Equity-Centered School Leadership”, by digging into data on equity in schools, evaluating action plans schools and, says George, “bringing in other district voices, such as teachers and students.