A message from Mounds View Schools

July 2, 2020

Our commitment to racial equity

Over the past few weeks, we have been meeting with concerned parents, students and alumni who are sharing stories of racial inequities in our schools. We’ve listened, we’ve learned, and we agree that we can do better.

It’s clear to us that it is time to recommit to our district’s Equity Promise; a promise that states each student attending our schools will be prepared for post-secondary success regardless of race, class, disability or gender. Our community has informed us that we have fallen short on our promise. As a district, we can do better and are committed to making necessary changes. The School Board, superintendent, administration and our entire school staff will make this a priority for the 2020-21 school year and beyond.

As promised in our message on June 18, we want to outline a series of action steps that have been informed through conversations with our community. These actions are aligned to direct feedback we have received from students, staff, parents and alumni. Our work is underway and will involve ongoing conversations and partnership with all stakeholders as we move forward.

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We will redesign the schools’ curriculum beginning with social studies and English language arts, and will engage the community in this process.

We’re pleased to share that Courtney Bell, an education consultant who has deep experience and training in culturally responsive methods of teaching, will be working with us to help guide our curriculum work. Ms. Bell has been endorsed by our alumni in conversations we have been holding with them about our need for this work. Courtney was recently named a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year and has most recently served as program manager of culturally relevant instruction for St. Paul Public Schools. At the end of the month, she will receive her doctorate in education policy and leadership from the University of Minnesota.

Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing her in greater detail to our community and specifically outlining our partnership in this work. With Courtney’s help and community input, we are confident that our curriculum at all grade levels will better reflect the diversity of our student body.

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We will increase the number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) staff to reflect our students and community. We will annually measure, track and publicly report our percentages of BIPOC staff across all employee groups.

Hiring licensed teachers and administrators who are BIPOC and reflective of our student population is a top priority. We will continue our commitment to developing systems of support for teachers of color, including those in our “Grow Your Own” program, a program that invests in alumni interested in returning to the District as a teacher. Annual goals will be set and staff hiring reports will be shared publicly to demonstrate our growth in this important area.

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Required training and education

We will establish required training for students and staff in the area of anti-racism, implicit bias, equity and inclusion. Training will be done annually.

Mounds View Public Schools will partner with individuals and organizations to provide the necessary training for staff and students. We will embed these training opportunities into established professional development days for all employees. We will also provide training to students that is age-appropriate, connected to our curriculum and provides opportunities for open discussions about anti-racism, implicit bias, equity and inclusion.

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We will review and update district policies using a lens of anti-racism, equity and inclusion. Clear behavioral expectations will be established and systems for reporting and enforcement will be consistently implemented, annually tracked and publicly reported.

The School Board will work with individuals and organizations who have deep cultural knowledge to review District policies through the lens of anti-racism, equity and inclusion. Clear behavior and conduct expectations will be communicated to students, staff and administration across all buildings and programs. These expectations will hold everyone in our schools accountable for microaggressions, racism and other unacceptable behaviors. To ensure compliance, we will establish a representative advisory committee that will assist in addressing and resolving issues as they occur in our schools and programs. Systems for reporting and enforcing these expectations will be clearly articulated, consistently implemented, annually tracked and publicly reported for all buildings and programs.

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Student support

We will improve and enhance services to support BIPOC and other underrepresented students.

A comprehensive review will be conducted of our current cultural liaison and equity specialist program. Conversations with students, parents and the community will be part of that review and specific action steps will be targeted at addressing the areas identified for additional support. In addition, current feedback from students, parents and alumni has highlighted the need to improve our college and career planning processes. We commit to a redesign of our College and Career Centers that will significantly strengthen the support available for students of color, students from lower-income families and first-generation students to assist them in successfully navigating their educational journey and planning effectively for their future.

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Academic opportunity and access

We will improve systems and structures of communication, access and enrollment in our most rigorous courses for BIPOC and other underrepresented students.

The feedback from our students and parents highlighted barriers they have faced when attempting to access our most rigorous courses of study. These barriers must be removed. A comprehensive review will be conducted of our current placement procedures and enrollment in these courses. Outdated systems and procedures that result in barriers for BIPOC students must be eliminated and replaced with new structures so that participation and performance is reflective of our District demographics. To ensure compliance, enrollment and performance data for these courses will be annually tracked, measured and publicly reported.

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District Equity Committee

We will establish a District Equity Committee to work in partnership with our community on the implementation and monitoring of progress toward our Equity Promise.

We believe that in order to best serve our community, we need to partner with our community. The purpose of the Equity Committee will be to engage parents, students and alumni in providing oversight on the District’s progress toward the achievement of our Equity Promise. It will include active participation in the implementation and monitoring of the action steps that have been outlined. In addition, this group will serve as a resource in the identification of areas for improvement, reinforcement and celebration related to the performance of our students. They will partner in setting District goals as well as the measurement, tracking and public reporting of progress.

Our work will not be limited to only these areas, nor will it be accomplished in isolation. Be assured that the School Board, superintendent and administration stand ready to address racial inequities in our schools, and we depend on the community’s support and partnership to make progress. School districts like Mounds View have much to be proud of, yet much needs to be done to ensure the school experience is positive for each of our students. We hope you will join us as we undertake this important work of improving our schools for all students, families and staff.

On behalf of the School Board and administration,

Jonathan Weinhagen, School Board Chair

Chris Lennox, Superintendent

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