The following message was posted earlier this week…
This spring has been difficult for our entire community, as our daily life has changed so dramatically from what we could have imagined just a few months ago. It is also important to recognize that we have not all faced challenges in the same ways. Specifically, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the health and employment of communities of color. This has revealed and exacerbated the deep disparities that persist in our nation and even in our own backyard.
The feelings of anger and surge of protests underway across the country are a direct outcome of the frustration and hurt that people feel after witnessing the brutal death of George Floyd, another black man killed at the hands of a white police officer—this time in Minneapolis. This, and other recent actions of flagrant racial injustice, have spurred our desire to bring about change.
The Board of Education and Superintendent of the Davis Joint Unified School District offer the following thoughts to open an honest conversation about racial injustice and the role public education and our schools can play in bringing communities together.
The pandemic has only further highlighted the importance of the work to achieve equity in our schools. In DJUSD, we know that there are students who do not have the same learning opportunities as others because of circumstances outside of their control. We know that despite extraordinary efforts by teachers, counselors, specialists, nutrition services staff, custodians, administrators, volunteers and others, language barriers, lack of stable and affordable housing and food insecurity make it difficult to serve some of our families.
Moreover, while not often stated plainly, we know that underlying issues of equity are often issues of race. While we share outrage and mourn as a nation when incidents gain public attention in other cities, we also must acknowledge that often unreported racial injustices and other forms of discrimination persist locally, even in our schools. To this end, we call out and condemn racial injustice, promote equitable opportunities, and keep our schools safe in an effort to embody “We All Belong,” the District’s officially adopted policy of inclusion.
Sadly, despite our constant efforts, we acknowledge there continue to be incidents where students and their families have not felt welcomed or valued in our schools because of the color of their skin. This is not acceptable and remains a challenge that we will continue to address in our District and in our community. In DJUSD, educational equity is a core value of our instructional program and the defining feature of each school community. We continue to make decisions with an “equity lens” to ensure that all of our students, particularly those who are furthest from opportunity, experience a high-quality learning experience. This is an ongoing process that we are continually working to improve.
All leaders in DJUSD are trained annually by the National Equity Project to promote culturally responsive teaching and to disrupt the systems and structures that disadvantage our students. Our work to review and revise instructional programs, including the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), involves a focused analysis on areas where outcomes differ disproportionately by race and socio-economic status. In addition, over the past year and a half, we have begun serious and earnest efforts with African American staff to develop the relationships and structures that we hope will continue to improve the experience of students and staff of color.
We also continue important work to examine and adopt more inclusive hiring practices, promote diverse perspectives through the curriculum, support our Black Student Unions, and provide opportunities to value the rich cultures and backgrounds of our students and their families. These are just some of our efforts, though we encourage your input and remain committed to constantly improving the delivery of education until we rid the community of the ignorance and small-mindedness that stand at the center of racism.
There are substantial challenges ahead of us to significantly address equity and race issues in our schools and society. We deeply believe that the real power to change our society can and will be found in public education. DJUSD is committed to doing right by all students, and through our ongoing critical assessment and deliberate actions will make a difference. Through our Ethnic Studies Task Force and beyond, we will do more to teach history that is inclusive, nuanced, and told from multiple perspectives. Our schools will continue to examine and ensure our academic and discipline policies and practices do not perpetuate harm, especially to children of color and Native American students. And through it all, we will seek opportunities to inform the community of our efforts in order to stay accountable for this work and to ensure that staff, curriculum, and instruction are reflective of – and meet the needs of – all of the children we serve. Perhaps most importantly, we want DJUSD students to graduate not just with tools to be successful, but also with the skills to contribute to a brighter, more just and inclusive society through inquiry, understanding, compassion, and civic engagement.
It would have been impossible to predict ending the school year in this way. Looking back, in just three short months, the educational upheaval that our schools, children and teachers have faced is truly unprecedented. However, there remain the bright spots as seen in student resiliency, innovative and inclusive classrooms and projects, and creative student and staff celebrations that make us hopeful that we will find a way through this moment together and come out the other side stronger, smarter and with more compassion and understanding for each other. Our challenge now and as we look ahead, is for each of us to find ways to identify and end racial injustice and inequities in our families, circles, schools and in the broader community to create a better way forward for our children.
Cindy Pickett, DJUSD Board of Education President
Joe DiNunzio, DJUSD Board of Education Vice President
Tom Adams, DJUSD Board of Education Trustee
Alan Fernandes, DJUSD Board of Education
Bob Poppenga, DJUSD Board of Education
John A. Bowes, Ed.D., Superintendent