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Staunton City Schools forming Equity Committee

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - Staunton school leaders have worked hard to bridge the divide when it comes to technology and nutrition. Now, they are taking the next step on working toward equity in the school system and reaching out to the community for help.

Staunton City Schools is forming an Equity Committee made up of school and community members, as well as students. The committee will help develop the division’s first-ever equity plan.

“There’s a commitment on the part of our leaders to ensure that our schools are inclusive and diverse and equitable,” said Ruth Jones Turner, the Staunton City Schools Director of Strategic Planning and Partnerships. She’s one of the people putting the committee together.

The school division started working with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) in 2017 on a diversity and inclusion plan. VCIC led Staunton Schools through the high school name-change, but the bigger plan calls for developing long-term strategies to bridge opportunities and achievement gaps for students, so they’re forming the Equity Committee.

“This is part of that recommendation, and we’re following the recommendation as we think it’s vital,” stated Jones Turner.

The Equity Committee will look at hiring practices, specifically when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.

“We believe a faculty and staff that reflects the make-up of our student body is important,” said Jones Turner.

Committee members will also examine curriculum, policies, and student and parent experiences to make sure they’re equitable and inclusive.

“I don’t think students can be successful in an environment where they don’t feel included, where they don’t feel like they matter,” said Jones Turner.

Jones Turner says they owe it to both the students and staff. The work is going to be tough, but critical. “We’re gonna confront biases, prejudices, and things of that nature, but we’re gonna do the work.”

VCIC will work with the Equity Committee to develop the equity plan, which will go to Superintendent Garett Smith, and then the School Board for approval.

“We believe that each of our schools should be a welcoming place where each person’s authentic voice and their lived experiences are heard and valued,” said Jones Turner.

She is encouraging anyone who’s interested to apply for the Equity Committee. Jones Turner says applications won’t be judged on spelling or grammar, but on ideas and thoughts around equity.

More information about the Equity Committee as well as a link to the application is available on the Staunton City Schools website. The deadline to apply is Friday, November 6 at 5 p.m.

As part of Staunton City Schools' (SCS) strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re focused on addressing educational equity and bridging achievement and opportunity gaps for students.

To accomplish this goal, we are excited to announce today that SCS is forming an equity committee that will help develop the school division’s first-ever equity plan. The equity committee will serve as a permanent advisory group to the superintendent, and members will serve a one-year term.

The committee will develop the equity plan over the next five months with the expert guidance of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC). VCIC has worked with the school division since 2017 to conduct diversity and inclusion training for staff and has led discussions and listening sessions with the school division and the Staunton community at large concerning the high school name.

We are now accepting applications online for the equity committee and encourage all interested Staunton citizens and employees of SCS to apply. The application will be open for about three weeks, until 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 6.

A selection panel composed of three Staunton citizens and two SCS staff members will use a rubric to review applications and evaluate applicant qualifications. The panel will then select 20 members, 10 connected to the school division as a teacher, student, parent, administrator, or alumni, and 10 Staunton citizens interested in equity work.

To learn more about the timeline and process for creating the equity committee, visit https://www.staunton.k12.va.us/Page/6478.

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