photo by: Screenshot of the meeting / Lawrence School Board
The Lawrence School Board now has an equity policy that aims to address educational disparities in the school district.
At a meeting on Monday, the board approved an amended policy with a 6-0 vote. Board member Paula Smith was absent from the meeting.
Board chair Kelly Jones said the changes included using more direct language by changing some words from “should” to “will,” which was suggested by a student leader. It also includes changes to the Continuous Improvement section of the policy, changing wording to allow external programs – such as the Parents of Color Advisory Committee, Equity Advisory Council, and Native American Student Services – to participate. to the work of the district.
These changes were discussed when the board first reviewed the policy at the April 26 board meeting.
Ahead of the vote, Ms Jones said she hoped board members would approve the policy, noting that its creation and approval was something she wanted to accomplish before her tenure as board chair ended this time. summer.
She also read aloud the main purpose of the policies, which includes the district’s elimination of “inequitable practices, systems and structures that create advantages for some students and families while disadvantaging others.”
After approving the policy, the council heard a report from the district administrators on their work to improve equity in the district. Leah Wisdom, district equity director, said the policy “means nothing” if the district does not implement it.
Part of this work includes the district’s use of culturally sustainable resource criteria, which is a tool it uses to review educational resources to ensure they are appropriate in terms of equity. An example of the tool’s criteria is whether an educational resource to be considered includes “an accurate representation of people of diverse backgrounds in culture, language, history and social norms free from stereotypes and prejudices. », Among other criteria.
In other matters, the board deferred action on a board governance manual. Parts of the proposed manual reflect a commitment to equity in education outlined in the proposed equity policy.
It also sets guidelines for when board members can serve as president and vice-president and includes a limit of two consecutive terms for those positions. Shannon Kimball, a board member, said the term limit was only for consecutive terms, meaning a board member can hold leadership positions for more than two years, but must take leave after two years before serving again.
Additionally, Jones said the proposed manual also changes the way leadership is traditionally selected for the board. Currently, the members who obtain the first and second highest number of votes in their election serve as Chairman of the Board for a period of two years. But the manual would allow any of the board members to hold leadership positions, if elected by the board.
Board members Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Melissa Johnson have said they do not support the change in board leadership selection, with Cadue-Blackwood suggesting it would rob voters of their right to vote.
But Kimball said there is no current policy forcing the elected board member with the most votes to serve as board chair. Additionally, Ms Jones said she believed the new policy took into account that some board members may not have time to take on the additional responsibilities of leading the board.
Cadue-Blackwood said she believed the traditional method should be enshrined in politics instead, saying she “did not want to take voting power from the people.” Johnson suggested a compromise for the policy of having the board first appoint the members who receive the most votes and, if they carry over, allow the board to nominate and elect another officer.
However, Kimball said that due to the staggered two-year board election cycle, allowing a board member to serve two consecutive one-year terms as chairman could prevent the board member who received the second highest number of votes in his election to sit as president. President.
Noting that Smith was absent from the meeting, Jones said she was not sure the board had the vote to approve the measure at the meeting and asked to table the item. She said the board would consider taking final board action at the May 24 meeting.
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