The local school district is a step closer to having an equity policy.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education’s Policy Committee voted Tuesday to send the final draft of the proposed policy to the full school board.

Equity involves raising achievement for all students, and narrowing gaps and eliminating racial and cultural disparities between the lowest and highest performing student groups.

The final draft includes information about the policy’s purpose, a definition of equity, five pillars of equity and their definitions, and information about the new Office of Equity as well as establishing an Equity Advisory Council in the future.

According to the policy, the board of education “believes that a solid education for every child is the key to future economic growth, family development, civic engagement and global participation. The board is also committed to eliminating student achievement predictability based on social and cultural factors, including race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, language proficiency, and disability, and to support staff throughout the district.”

The policy defines equity in part as “a commitment to educational equity involves the removal of institutional barriers so that all students, regardless of their race, socio-economic class, language proficiency, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or ethnic background, can benefit from all aspects of the learning environment.”

The five pillars are school policy and organization/administration; school learning environments; academic placement, tracking and assessment; professional learning; and standards and curriculum development.

The committee’s vote follows a meeting of the school board’s Climate Culture and Equity Committee on Monday when it reviewed public comments on a draft of the equity policy.

A 30-day public comments period for the policy ended Jan. 11.

Public suggestions included revising the policy’s statement of purpose, naming the social and cultural factors in the purpose, adding “staff development and work environment” and “parents and community relations and engagement” as pillars, and changing “narrowing the gaps” in the definition of equity to “eliminating the gaps.”

Additional public comments included:

  • “Thank you for the efforts which your committee has put into generating the new equity policy code. However, I recognize that this is only an initial first step.”
  • The Pillars of Equity cries out for a more penetrating vision and revision. Avoiding the basic issues of current social injustices ensures the continuance of the problem. I urge you to name the issues, confront them and begin the long and difficult path forward….”
  • I love what you have put together. It is comprehensive, explicit and accessible to the public….”
  • “I think this policy is completely discriminating towards the creative learner. I do not think it accommodates arts based instruction….”

During Monday’s equity committee meeting, Carolyn Highsmith, a member of the committee as well as a representative for the Coalition for Equity in Public Education, suggested that more information be included in the policy about the Equity Advisory Council.

“We just think that a policy should at minimal tell what the role of the Equity Council is,” Highsmith said in an interview.

She said that several other school districts include this type of information in their equity policies.

“By not having it in there, that tells me it’s not an accountability measure for this equity policy,” she said.

Angela P. Hairston, the superintendent for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said that there are advisory councils throughout the school district that overlap.

“We want to be able to align the work of the advisory with the (school system’s) strategic plan, which we are still working on,” Hairston said.

Hairston said that because there are nine different advisories, “We want to be sure they are good leadership, that the message is consistent and that each meeting is an objective use of time.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Lida Calvert-Hayes, a member of the school board, and Effie McMillian, the school system’s new director of equity, spoke about the policy’s final draft.

“I think a lot of people have worked on it long and hard,” Calvert-Hayes said. “I feel like right now that we are doing very well. It may not be perfect, but it can be changed if it doesn’t work in the future. It’s not something that’s set in stone, but we want everybody to feel like they are welcome in our schools.”

McMillian said she is excited about the final draft.

“We are working on our strategic plan as well as the district and this will help to guide some of that work as we think about action steps, and metrics to measure those action steps,” McMillian said.

The school board is expected to vote on the equity policy Jan. 28.

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