August 26, 2019
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101-2131
Attorney General Ellison:
I appreciate the invitation to meet with you. It’s unfortunate we were unable to do so earlier so that we could provide background for the conversation held earlier this week in our community.
Our School Board, and our district staff, are committed to an educational environment where all students feel safe, welcome, and included, and have the tools and resources to succeed. We have not yet realized that for every student, and have been working in earnest to move the needle and improve outcomes for every child that walks through our doors.
Our district’s investment in building equitable outcomes for all students started with more intention in 2017. Given the incidents in our district over the past year, this work has accelerated. With the hiring of our new director of equity and inclusion in July, our work will now become more consistent across buildings in the district and directed by a strategic action plan that will not just guide our work but create benchmarks to which we can hold ourselves accountable.
For your information, some of the work over the past year includes:
- Over the course of the 2018-2019 school year a subset of our district equity leadership team participated, via the University of Minnesota’s Urban Leadership Academy, in the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Academy.
- Building off that experience, over 40 district and building administrative leaders participated in two and a half days of focused professional development on culturally responsive school leadership.
- Starting in late 2018, district staff held over 50 feedback sessions with staff, students, parents, and the larger community to develop the district’s equity definition, vision, and beliefs. This work is being used to help develop our district equity action plan.
- Formation of an Equity Advisory Council, whose membership draws from parents and community members. The council provides direct input and feedback to school district leaders about policies, programs, practices, and outreach and engagement activities that have an impact on district equity and inclusion work.
- Recognizing that the district needed to better understand strengths and weaknesses, we contracted with a nationally-recognized researcher to conduct an audit of our policies, practices, and performance data using an equity lens. The results of this audit, available this September, will also inform development of that equity action plan.
- At the most senior level, the superintendent’s cabinet will be doing extended equity training with staff from Minnesota State University, Mankato. The School Board will also participate in two days of this training.
In addition, at each of our buildings throughout the district, administration and staff are working to develop equity goals and action plans specific to their school communities. As no two children are alike, neither are two schools, and in order to be successful in this work, school leaders need to have the latitude, with district guideposts and supports, to tailor this work to their school community.
Accountability is critical in moving this work forward, and the reason for starting this training and development at the senior leadership level is precisely so that district – and building – leadership have the skills and tools in place to support teachers and other staff working at the building level to be successful in their own work with our students.
We are engaged in this work beyond our district boundaries. In 2017, Eastern Carver County Schools joined with other metro-area school districts in Reimagine Minnesota to ensure equity and excellence for all students. This ongoing collaboration with other local and regional school districts embarking on these same equity efforts allows us to network and learn from each other.
Student data privacy laws prevent us from speaking to specific incidents and actions taken. We have communicated repeatedly and emphatically in the past that as a district we take these incidents seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and students and staff who engage in racist behavior face significant consequences. Racism has no place in our schools and we are working to address it in and out of the classroom. All of our students deserve to grow and learn in an environment that is safe and welcoming, one that celebrates differences as opportunities to learn from one another.
This is long-term work which requires time, education, and investment. In order to truly make change, and to bridge the gap between the experiences of many of our white students and students of color, those investments in training and professional development are vital and necessary.
I am proud of this district, of our teachers and staff, our amazing students, and the communities we serve. We have made mistakes and publicly acknowledged that we have major work to do in regard to racial equity, in particular. But I speak for the Board and our district when I say this is important work, it’s the right work, and we are all committed to doing better for each student. They’re the reason we’re here.
I welcome the opportunity to meet with you to address any additional district-specific questions or concerns you may have.