Q: Hi Kelly, i am interested in learning your position regarding diversity curriculum within District 109. Would you be willing to share?
A: That is an excellent question. I feel strongly in developing teacher leadership teams for the PreK-2, 3rd-5th, and 6th-8th grade cohorts to address the developmental and curricular needs of those specific age groups. Within this, I think addressing culturally responsive curriculum targeted to their learning ranges would be an excellent component to include under those team leaders' responsibilities.
Personally, I feel a diversity curriculum should include perspective-taking, understanding other people's cultures, and engaging children (in a developmentally appropriate way) towards a path to social change. It would also be focused on the best teaching practices to ensure that all diverse learners feel engaged in their daily learning. I would lean on the knowledge of our staff, students, community members, and panel of experts to guide our district in selecting curricular materials and/or professional development to support this learning need
Q: I would love to know why the local districts don’t meet regularly to discuss new initiatives, plans and platforms.
A: I agree - as a mom of a current DHS freshman, I feel that there is room to grow when it comes to our districts (109 and 113) collaborating and communicating more predictably. I feel strongly that our district 109 decisions simply do not end with our "portrait of an 8th grade graduate". We need to make sure that we are part of bridging the gap between middle school and high school in terms of curriculum development, executive functioning skills, and extra-curricular involvement. I also see room for our middle school PTO's and DHS's PTO to collaborate too in order to better support families! Lastly, I would love to support a middle school to high school transition task force comprised of students, parents, and staff that focuses specifically on the above mentioned needs. To your question regarding districts (112, 109, 106, 113 etc) meeting more frequently to discuss initiatives, I'm very interested in learning more about what communication currently takes place (I believe we are part of a multi-district consortium, though do not know the frequency or the intensity of those meetings) and how we can build upon that. If this year has taught us anything, it is that we need to utilize all our community resources to solve problems quickly and for the betterment of the community as a whole. We see how the fracturing, miscommunications, and breakdown in transparency has led to bickering and distrust!
Q: I was just wondering if you could share your take with me on the kids getting back to school full time? And thoughts about how to make it successful for next year as well?
I think the simplistic answer is that being in person full day is best for so many of our learners. The district has reached the stage where they feel that they can safely resume full day learning, and as they have made very conservative choices all year, I put my trust in their ability to keep our children and staff as safe as humanly possible. I appreciate that they are keeping fully remote classrooms that have their own, dedicated teacher (vs. livestreaming) so that our families choosing to stay remote have a strong program option.
The complex answer is that this is complex! What schedule works for one family does not work for another. What safety measures comfort one family may not meet the needs of someone else's. Where one staff member might feel equipped to be in the building all day, another staff member may have strong reasons why they aren't. Personally, with my own four children, it was a lengthy conversation between myself and my husband, using all the FAQ's from the district as well as really assessing our kids' emotional needs, in order to make our family decision. I empathize with each and every family who have had to make this decision even if they are still nervous or apprehensive about all the nuances of the plan. We ultimately chose to send all four of our kids back in person, though appreciate the challenges that the full day model is creating for some families.
As far as next year, I have two priorities:
One, that we spend the time between Mike Simeck starting in April and the return of students in August urgently developing plans to address the academic, social emotional, and executive functioning needs of our students and staff. What professional development will staff need? What systemic changes need to happen in terms of buildings and grounds and equipment/materials? What can continue to be addressed and enhanced in terms of air-quality and COVID testing? What curricular mapping needs to be in place for our learners?
Two, that we remain flexible to the reality that school may not "open as normal" this fall. Developing innovative plans to ensure that learners and staff can safely stay on campus all day, putting in the resources needed for that, and also understanding that until our society reaches herd immunity and/or children receive vaccines, we will still have a cohort of vulnerable learners who will need equitable access to virtual education. Our ability to work with students virtually this year will only serve our public school district in the future, as we can't predict if and when a quick pivot to virtual learning may be a needed tool.
I am looking forward to the start date of our new superintendent and feel that he will hit the ground at a sprinter's speed, with a collaborative and supportive board, to put the necessary pieces in place for our district between April and August!