The Equity Council formed in July 2020 and was charged with listening, learning and leading on critical issues of equity in our school district. Of the diverse group of 40 people who served on the Council, eight were BVSD employees. There were four teachers, one principal, one assistant principal, and two administrators. Their perspectives were critical to the group.
“Every system or every decision that we make or whatever mission, vision, values, goals we have, equity should be at the very forefront,” said Boulder High School Principal and Equity Council Member Dr. James Hill. “When you don’t put equity there, you're leaving a population consistently out. If equity is not part of these systems then I think we are failing those students.”
Amy Nelson, Coordinator of Equity and Partnerships for the SW Network, a former Fairview High School Teacher, and Member of the Equity Council agreed, “We’ve only scratched the service in terms of amplifying voices, particularly BIPOC voices. We’ve only talked about Resource Officers and there’s many issues of equity that are yet to be addressed. Continuing to look at how the district and the Equity Council can work together to make the changes that they wish to see is a great way for the district to connect with diverse representation from the community.”
The group met for two and a half hours every week through mid-October. The first issue the Council took on was the role of School Resource Officers (SROs) in BVSD schools. This was a very difficult discussion, as will all future topics of the Equity Council.
Inequity issues are seen every day in the classroom by our teachers who want each and every student to have the same opportunities. Discussing SROs and discipline was a very timely topic.
“SROs and discipline comes up a ton, in the sense that we see so many more suspensions and referrals and write-ups for students of color than we see for our white students,” said Carol Lucero, Boulder High School Science Teacher and Equity Council Member. “How do we as a community come in and address that? How do we reduce that? How do we make people aware of that and how do we fix that problem? That's a huge thing. In academics, we don’t see as many people of color in AP classes or advanced classes, so how do we encourage students of color to take that next step? What is the cause for them? Are they afraid? Do they not think they will be successful? Are they not getting the support at home? How do we mitigate that and how do we support our students of color in the district in a place where they have been historically underserved?”
Diverse perspectives were shared openly each week. Principals, administrators and teachers listened thoughtfully and shared their views, while focusing on the greater good of our district and community.
“We live in very polarizing times and it's discouraging that we’re so divided,” said Nelson. “Being on a Council like that helps you listen to other viewpoints and listen to the reasons for those viewpoints.I think that you learn that when you take time to have conversations, we have more similarities than we have differences.”
Dr. Landon Mascareñaz, VP of Community Partnerships at the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) helped facilitate the structure of the Equity Council to be a long-term opportunity for the district. CEI is a nonprofit that plays a pivotal role in advancing critical initiatives in Colorado’s public education system.
“There’s a lot of discussions around the country right now about the school to prison pipelines and the disproportionality around discipline and the role of police in our communities,” said Mascareñaz. “It’s a very important conversation to hear from voices of color, voices of community and students, and that’s what the Equity Council is attempting to do here. What I really applaud BVSD for is that they didn’t start Equity Council with a small issue. They said this is a big question in our community and let’s dig into that. I really admire that because I think in some ways it actually provoked a sense of responsibility on behalf of the Equity Council to really get it right.”
Mike Gradoz, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, was the liaison between the facilitator from CEI, Dr. Mascareñaz, and the members of the Council. He observed every meeting and says this committee aligns very well with the Strategic Plan.
“I think the Equity Council is embedded within the Strategic Plan to take on any issues that come up with maybe the way we teach it, maybe the method we teach it, maybe the curriculum we’re teaching, and addressing the equity gap and the opportunity gap, and getting more kids of color in AP,” said Gradoz. “I see this as an opportunity for the district to really walk their talk when they talk about equity and to involve the stakeholders of our community, parents, community leaders, teachers, administrators, and especially students.”
Being on the Equity Council was a major commitment of both time and mental capacity. But the BVSD employees that served on the committee felt honored to be part of such an important group.
“I really enjoyed getting to listen to all of these different viewpoints and perspectives and people’s experiences because it helped really inform how we ended up drafting those recommendations and what we ultimately want for our students,” said Lucero. “It was super helpful and it was at times uncomfortable, and at times I was shocked to learn some of the things that I did from some of our speakers. It was quite surprising about certain situations that parents had with their kids or that students had with SROs themselves and what that experience was like for them. Also learning a little bit more about the justice department and reformative justice and CASA and all these awesome things. It was just super eye-opening and I was so grateful to have gotten a chance to listen to all those people and hear their perspectives and it really helped us inform our decision.”
“It was really amazing work just to see a lot of different stakeholders come together to talk about equity and how to find ways to provide voices for our students of color in the school district and talk about some of the barriers that they’ve been facing for decades,” said Dr. Hill. “Just to come together with those stakeholders and be a part of that and have those critical conversations in an environment where everyone didn’t always agree, but respected each other's opinion, was awesome.”