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Equity is Not a New Goal for Ramsey School District

Equity is Not a New Goal for Ramsey School District

I’m glad to hear the community discussions that have sprung up since we made a semantics change to our district goals and backed that up with some action steps. Conversations are great first steps. The goal changed with the addition of key words: Achieving Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

As conversations develop into the exchange of ideas, it is helpful to use common language so everyone works from the same definitions. Diversity, equity, and inclusion may seem like reactionary “buzzwords” that can be easily politicized in the current climate, but they are not new in education.  This isn’t a left issue or a right issue or any kind of political issue for the school district.

DIVERSITY reflects the constantly changing demographics of our society. Defining it as a matter of race is short-sighted. In Ramsey, student diversity is about race, yes, but also ethnicity, culture, language, socio-economic status, gender-identity expression, religious beliefs, social-emotional challenges, interests, learning styles, and much more. Race is in the news today, but open conversation will show how many other examples of diversity we have.

EQUITY means every child gets what he or she needs to develop to full potential. We have reached for this goal by breaking down barriers to classes, revising and developing rigorous curriculum, and by developing programs in our district rather than sending students out of district. We have approached it by offering information and forums about mental health, gender identity, suicide awareness, opioid addiction, college acceptance pressures, and both social and emotional well-being. We aim to give all our students equal access to a rigorous curriculum and the best teachers. Within this definition of Equity, we strive for Achieving Excellence One Student at a Time.

INCLUSION is at the heart of the goal. When diversity is recognized and equity is practiced, that inclusive environment reduces feelings of isolation or exclusion.

None of these concepts are new for Ramsey Public Schools. We have focused on equity for the past several years, consciously taking steps to eliminate barriers to excellence for all. What’s new is the broadening of our existing district goal from Equity to also include Diversity and Inclusion. Simultaneously, we recognized that recent events have brought race relations into the forefront of public discourse. These issues are swirling around our students, whom we have encouraged to be curious. We shouldn’t shun their interest now; we should seize the opportunity to provide relevant, authentic learning experiences about the things they are seeing, hearing, and discussing.

Rather than ignoring the existence of very public debates, we are asking, “How can we equip teachers and students with strategies to explore these topics in respectful ways?” and “How can we model uncomfortable and imperfect conversations without the fear of being ‘canceled’”? We are not asking, “How can we get everyone on the same page and sharing the same perspective?”

We hope to listen, learn, share resources and experiences, celebrate success stories, and identify where we still have questions. Let’s not be afraid to disagree and see issues from diverse perspectives. We want to become more informed and equipped with the skills to tackle complex issues and to show our students how to do the same.