Lawrence school board to discuss new equity policy that aims to address institutional injustice in education
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
Noting the historic failure of government agencies to address systemic racism and other inequities in education, the Lawrence school district is developing a new equity policy aimed at tackling those issues in its schools.
During a meeting on Monday, the Lawrence school board will review a proposed equity policy that focuses on addressing inequities experienced by marginalized groups, such as people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, women and several others.
The stated goal of the proposed policy is to disrupt systemic racism and other inequities by changing the district’s governance and resource allocation, among other things.
“Current and past federal, state, and local failures to act urgently in the pursuit of educational equity contribute to reduced access to academic opportunities, disparity in graduation outcomes, and disciplinary action for students from historically marginalized communities,” the proposed policy states. “These disparities contradict the beliefs and values the Lawrence Public School community articulates about what students can achieve and the adults’ role in ensuring conditions for success.”
To implement such changes, the policy calls on the superintendent to develop strategies with clear metrics that result in “disparity improvements” for marginalized students. It also says those strategies should take into account equitable resource allocation and workforce opportunities, which includes hiring faculty and staff representing the district’s diverse student population.
The board is expected to discuss the policy on Monday and consider approving it during its meeting on May 10. The full proposed policy may be viewed in the board agenda posted on the district’s website, www.usd497.org.
Also during the Monday meeting, the board will consider approving a memorandum of understanding with Baker University to establish a dual-credit program for the Lawrence Virtual School.
While Lawrence High School and Free State High School students may receive college and high school credits through a dual-credit program with the University of Kansas, known as Jayhawk Blueprint, LVS students are unable to participate because it does not offer online-only courses, according to a memo to the board members.
To provide similar opportunities to the LVS students, Baker is offering eight online-only dual-credit courses for the 2021-22 school year. If approved, the eight courses — which cover U.S. history, college algebra, biology and other subjects — would be offered by both the Jayhawk Blueprint and Baker programs.
District Spokeswoman Julie Boyle said if the board approves the program, the LVS would be the first virtual school in the state to offer a dual-credit program to its high school students.
In other business the board will:
• Hear a report on the district’s work on its participation in the Kansas State Department of Education’s school redesign program. The district’s Broken Arrow, Deerfield and Hillcrest elementary schools and Free State High School are participating in the program.
Those schools were scheduled to begin implementing their redesign plans during the current school year, but implementation was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Free State is expected to begin implementing the plan next school year, and principals of the elementary schools will report on their specific plans.
The redesign programs aim to provide students with more personalized learning opportunities, such as flexible schedules for high school students.
• Meet for a work session to discuss the district’s budget. According to the meeting agenda, finance director Kathy Johnson will report on the status of the district’s current 2020-21 school year budget and the application process for federal COVID-19 relief funding.
The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.
Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.
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