Equity and Family Empowerment

Winchester Public Schools - March 2023

Delving Deeper: Cultivating Student Belonging through Early Childhood Programming

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Preschool programs are important for developing positive K-12 school experiences for students. Research denotes that students who attend publically-funded preschool programs tend to be better prepared for kindergarten than students who do not attend (NPR ED, 2017). WPS Preschool Programs are anchored in several guiding principles designed to ensure children are visible, valued, highly engaged, and partners in their own learning—to name a few.

Mrs. Angie Cain, WPS Early Childhood Coordinator (PreK-2), stated that surrounding students with an environment where they can belong, thrive, and learn was of utmost importance. She explained that attending a preschool program was often a child’s first experience away from home. Thus, she guides teachers to spend time—particularly at the beginning of the school year—to establish relationships, routines, and schedules. “Family engagement begins before school starts with a family visit,” she stated. She wants teachers to make connections and to learn about their students’ families to ensure all feel comfortable interacting with one another.

I had an opportunity to observe her sentiments first-hand in several of the preschool classrooms that I have visited, including two classrooms: Mr. Troy Phillips (who as nominated by his school as the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year) and Mrs. Brandie Brown; and Mrs. Tanesha Hutchinson and Mrs. Heather Servage. Students were visible, valued, highly engaged, and absolute partners in their own learning from the moment I walked into each of their classrooms. Most noticeably was the ability for students to see themselves in every aspect of the environment—including the curriculum, activities, and visual displays.

When asked the importance for students to see representation of themselves in the classroom, Mrs. Hutchinson explained that their mission was to “meet the needs of the students where they are” and being willing to “change things in the classroom if it is not working.” They strive to ensure students “feel comfortable knowing that their classroom is no different from their homes, grocery store, or a walk in the park.”

Mr. Phillips expressed he most appreciates working with his students because the students are “fueled by pride and recognition of their successful tasks…the amount of intrinsic motivation that occurs every day…and having 18 little warriors that would literally do anything for you because they trust and love us as much as we do them.”

Mrs. Hutchinson stated that there were many things to appreciate about working with preschool students. She noted how they “enter the classroom with little or no skills to take on the role of being students” and “start at the beginning of the year being fearful, not knowing what to expect but also eager to learn.” She values being able to observe the growth that they see “every day in their social emotional skills by being problem solvers.”

Mr. Phillips and Mrs. Hutchinson identified various priorities for serving preschool students, including experiencing new and different things, science experiments, building their confidence, and exploration with different mediums and tools. Mrs. Hutchinson noted that she wanted them to “become a generation of learners that are not afraid to take chances.” Mr. Phillips stated that, “expanding their curiosity of the world around them is always a goal of mine.”

As Mr. Phillips reflected on his years serving preschool students, he noted how “many children from many different walks of life and various demographics interact and learn from one another every day.” He shared, “They are not only learning from us, but so much is gained through their peer interactions. Having such a blended classroom makes my job so much fun and opens my eyes to the amazing world that exists within each and every learner.”

“Let the students see that you are having fun,” Mrs. Hutchinson stated, “so that they can do the same.”

Reminder: 2022-2023 Cultural & Religious Observances

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A 2022-2023 Calendar of Observances is available for your reference. Additional resources - such as details and information, lesson plans, and activities - are available through this Cultural & Religious Observances website, which is updated as more resources become available.

Feel free to submit any resources or ideas you'd like to share to Maggie McCampbell Lien or Veronique N. Walker.

Amplifying Middle & Intermediate Schools Students' Voices

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Student leaders from Daniel Morgan Middle and Daniel Morgan Intermediate Schools served as panelist in a professional learning opportunity for educators. As with the high school panel that occurred at the beginning of the school year, middle and intermediate school students shared their thoughts about what will best support and serve them.

Thank you to those who attended the session! Click here to review a summary of what the students shared.

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It was a special day working with colleagues throughout the division on their thoughts about Black History Month. A special "Thank You" is extended to all who gave of their time, talents, and thoughts:

Maggie McCampbell Lien, Steve Berkenkemper, Micline Jules, Dr. Gail Brady, Cynthia Banks, Chiffon Armistead, Kaitlyn Wright, Tanesha Simmons, Tommy Dixon, Donald Finley, Nadine Johnson Hamm, Chyanna Jones, Clarissa Kennerly, Mo Bruce, Crystal Washington, Dr. Jonetta Carter, Brenda Johnson, Ruby Ford, and Clarence Smith.

2023 Black History Month Video - Facebook

2023 Black History Month Video - YouTube

JHHS Student Equity Advisory Council

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John Handley High School (JHHS) students had an opportunity to apply to be a part of a Student Equity Advisory Council, which was purposed to assist Mrs. Susan Braithwaite - JHHS Principal - in making sure students have what they needed to thrive. Students selected to participate in the Council have been meeting once a month since November 2022.

The Council has identified key initiatives on which they want to focus for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year and beyond. Mrs. Braithwaite listens to the feedback students provide with the goal of implementing suggested changes when feasible. Individuals facilitating Council meetings include Mr. Jeff Keller, Ms. Chyanna Jones, Mrs. Clarissa Kennerly, Mr. Clarence Smith, and Dr. Veronique N. Walker.

Revisit: BSU Regional Symposium

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John Handley High School's (JHHS) Black Student Union (BSU) participated in a regional symposium with other high school and college students; Shenandoah hosted and sponsored the event in December 2022. The day was empowering for all involved!

We value the leadership the BSU shows throughout the school year, particularly by fulfilling their goal of improving "inclusivity and to bring students of all spectrums together in a safe place where all ideas are heard. BSU promotes community outreach to strengthen the relationship between Handley and the community."

Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council

The Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council has met three times (quarterly) during the 2022-2023 school year. Attendees have provided advisement on topics including: (a) increasing diverse student representation in higher level classes; (b) root-cause analysis regarding academic achievement for several student demographic groups; and (c) professional learning for WPS employees. Our final meeting for the 2022-2023 school year will occur on May 24, 2023 at Quarles Elementary School.

Equity in Action

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Equality vs. Equity

The illustration above is one of many which strives to visually depict equity. Based on the illustration, equality is providing everyone with the same resource although they may be unable to efflectively access and/or use the resource based on their needs. Equity is providing everyone with the same resource that has been adapted to their needs, resulting in the most effective way for them to access and/or use the resource. What are your thoughts?

Reminder: VDOE Cultural Competency Training Module

The 40-minute training module provides foundational information on upcoming WPS initiatives. VDOE has developed a free online Cultural Competency Training Module to meet the training as well as the initial and renewal license requirements. This module is accessible from PCs and Mac computers and some other types of mobile devices. Complete the module in one session, if possible, and have access to a printer in order to print a copy of the certificate of completion for verification. Certificates will not be saved or stored by the VDOE for later access. Update: The module has a value of 15 professional development points and meets the cultural competency training requirement (Code of Virginia § 22.1-298.7) for every person seeking initial licensure or renewal of a license.

Monthly Thought: The Equity Lens

There have been many societal changes in research, terminology, expectations, and commitment during my 15 1/2 years serving in "diversity, equity, and inclusion" roles. Yet one essential element has - from my perspective - remained the same: self-reflection.

Individuals and organizations facilitate equitable practices to the degree their beliefs, values, and practices are self-assessed. With this in mind, here are a few resources I have recently used or have been given that are useful in a couple areas of self-reflection:

ADL Mini-Lesson: Identity Iceberg - Self-guided study (15 min.) by Anti-Defamation League.

ADL Mini-Lesson: What is Bias - Self-guided study (15 min.) by Anti-Defamation League.

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