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Spokane Public Schools continues work on ‘inclusive’ equity policy

UPDATED: Tue., June 1, 2021

As with other challenges in the last year, Spokane Public Schools is taking a careful, deliberate approach on the issue of equity.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the board will further refine its draft equity policy, a far-ranging document that was jump-started by the board’s adoption last year of a racial equity resolution.

This document will go much further, addressing district-wide equity of all types.

“It’s very similar to the resolution,” board President Jerrall Haynes said Tuesday. “But in this case we are trying to embed fairness and equity into all of our discussions.”

“All kinds of inequities – racial, gender, ability, you name it – we’re really trying to address all of those,” Haynes said.

But while Haynes acknowledged that “conventional wisdom is that we want to get this done, it’s more important to get this right.”

“It’s also important to give the community ample opportunity to comment,” Haynes said.

For those reasons, there is no timetable for completion.

However, the updated draft offers more than a glimpse of the goal. Its tone is set in the second and third sentences of the five-page document.

They read: “We are dedicated to honoring and valuing the many customs and traditions present in our community, and we are proud to partner with all stakeholders to support mutually beneficial goals. We recognize the intersection of historical oppression of protected classes that has contributed to disparities that are evident in our school and community data through persistent disparities and trends.”

The document lists eight major objectives or areas that will receive more scrutiny: equitable access and outcomes; curriculum, instruction and assessment; hiring and staffing practices; professional learning and growth; community and family engagement; distribution of resources; institutional structures; and employee work environment.

In each category, the document outlines proposed action steps.

For example, under “professional learning and growth,” the draft calls for all staff to receive “annual professional development on topics related to self-reflection, anti-racism and cultural responsiveness.”

Under “institutional structures,” it calls for critical evaluation to address practices that perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps.”

The draft also includes language around inclusive hiring practices and “culturally responsive retention strategies that support and value diversity in its staff.”

Haynes said the district has made strides in recent history.

“We’ve been able to hire a very diverse group of administrators,” Haynes said. “But we want to make sure to carry that work forward.”

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