Equity and Family Empowerment

Winchester Public Schools - April 2022

Big picture
The Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council met on March 9, 2022 to discuss several items, including:

  1. Expanding the Advisory Board

  2. Review of January 29, 2022 Meeting Notes

  3. Strengthening 5th Grade Student Transitions

  4. Building a Division-Wide Mentoring Program

  5. Supporting Youth Leadership and Stewardship.

Rich feedback occurred, with the plan to implement various ideas. The last meeting of the year will occur on June 1, 2022, where we will complete a year in review, plan for the 2022-2023 school year, and complete an evaluation.

One of the Council's priorities includes expanding the advisory board to community and family members. If you have ideas you'd like to share on how to reach more individuals, then feel free to send your feedback to Veronique N. Walker, Ed.D.

Big picture

Arab American Heritage Month: Celebrates the Arab American heritage and culture and pays tribute to the contributions of Arab Americans and Arabic-speaking Americans. Arab America and the Arab America Foundation launched the National Arab American Heritage Month initiative in 2017, with just a handful of states recognizing the initiative. President Biden officially recognized Arab American Heritage Month in 2021, with the Virginia House and Senate voting to designate April 2022 and each year thereafter as Arab American Heritage Month in Virginia.

Resources for Arab American Heritage Month

Big picture

April 2 - May 2, 2022

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and one of the holiest months of the year. Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting from the break of dawn to sunset.

This year, Ramadan occurs April 2 - May 2 and includes:

  • Fasting. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of prayers, service to others, deep internal reflection, and recitation of the Quran. This practice helps in practicing self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those in need. Fasting is a prescribed means of increasing patience and finding nearness to God.
  • Suhoor - a pre-fast meal eaten before dawn;
  • Iftar - a fast-breaking meal for which families and communities gather at sunset; and
  • Tarawih. Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are usually held in the mosques every night of the month.

Laylat al-Qadr is sometimes referred to as “the night of power” or ``the night of decree”and is considered the most holy night of the year. It occurs during the last ten nights of Ramadan, though the knowledge of the exact night is believed to be known only to God. This is the night in which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to the Prophet.

The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the start of the next lunar month. This day begins with a special Eid prayer in community. It is usually followed with feasts, friends, and family. Gifts are often exchanged. The required Zakat Al Fitr dues are paid during Ramadan and distributed to families in need so that they too may purchase new clothes, special meals, and gifts for the day of celebration.

How Schools May Support Students Observing Ramadan

Although fasting is not required for young children, there will be students 13 and older who will be observing Ramadan. We may best accommodate students observing Ramadan by:

  • Providing a comfortable location other than the cafeteria for students to be during lunchtime;
  • Providing a quiet location for students to pray and ensuring the room is free from visual distractions, particularly on a wall facing East;
  • Excuse or give an accommodating assignment for physical education classes;
  • Adapt dates/times for academic exams; and
  • Taking into consideration when planning activities that students are fasting, praying, and may be tired, hungry, and dehydrated.

Sources: Hanaa Unus, Chaplain and Muslim Community Coordinator - Shenandoah University; ADL; Arab America Foundation; and Nearpod

Big picture

Religious Observances:

  1. April 10: Palm Sunday (Christian): Observed the Sunday before Easter/Pascha to commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
  2. April 10: Rama Navami (Hindu): Celebrates the birthday of Rama, king of ancient India, hero of the epic Ramayana, and seventh incarnation of Vishnu
  3. April 14: Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi: (Sikh)): The festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community as the Khalsa (community of the initiated). On this day, Sikhs gather and celebrate Vaisakhi at their local Gurdwaras (Sikh house of worship) by remembering this day as the birth of the Khalsa.
  4. April 14: Holy Thursday (Christian): Also known as Maundy Thursday, it is celebrated on the Thursday before Easter commemorating the Last Supper, at which Jesus and the Apostles were together for the last time before the Crucifixion.
  5. April 15: Good Friday (Christian): Known as Holy Friday in Eastern Christianity, it commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Friday before Easter/Pascha.
  6. April 16: Theravada New Year (Buddhist): In Theravada countries the New Year is celebrated on the first full moon day in April.
  7. April 16-23: Passover/Pesach (Jewish): The eight-day “Feast of Unleavened Bread” celebrates Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
  8. April 17: Easter (Christian): Known as Pascha in Eastern Christianity, it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.
  9. April 28: Yom Hashoah (Jewish): “Holocaust Remembrance Day” memorializes the heroic martyrdom of six million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
Note: Observances are provided as cited on the ADL Calendar of Observances. Additional information is available on the Equity and Family Empowerment’s Calendar of Observances and Religious Observances.

Monthly Thought

Big picture

Recently I reflected on a conclusion I formed many years ago when it comes to serving students and families – my belief that at the core of every human being is the desire to be valued and respected, and my belief that every human has a right to access wanted/needed resources and opportunities regardless of their identity. As I think about multiculturalism, diversity, equity, inclusion, cultural responsiveness, anti-racism, global competency, and many other important theoretical frameworks – the common thread of respect (high regard and attention) weaves through each one.

As I visited Daniel Morgan Intermediate School today, I came across one of many champions of education – Mrs. Laura Hodgin – who also reminded me and a colleague about the power of building positive relationships. Treating others the way you want to be treated or the way you want your children to be treated were some of the reminders we discussed. Yes, even treating people the way they want to be treated works well at building relationships! Mrs. Hodgin, one of the numerous educators who diligently works at their profession without seeking accolades, teaches the value of understanding ourselves and others every time anyone enters or walks by her classroom (see picture).

I appreciated the reminders about valuing and respecting others, and building positive relationships through windows (seeing others’ points of view) and mirrors (seeing ourselves). The aforementioned attributes go a long way in establishing equitable practices and creating opportunities for others.

Big picture

Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Educator Practices (Cohort 3)

Registrations continue to be accepted for Cohort 3 of the Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Educator Practices professional learning opportunity sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, Radford University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

If interested, then click here to register.

Coming Soon

Our Stories Through the Lens of Equity

This professional learning will be soon available in CANVAS.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Awareness to Action

Approximately 15 educators will have the opportunity to participate in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Awareness to Action. This course allows educators to explore the foundations of culturally relevant teaching—what it is, why it’s important—and learn actionable strategies to ensure that students of all backgrounds have equitable opportunities for success.

Goals and objectives of the course include:

● Exploring the foundations of culturally responsive teaching

● Examining the role that relationship-building, curriculum planning and educator mindsets play in creating a culturally responsive environment

● Applying strategies to reflect a more culturally responsive approach

● Reflecting on personal beliefs

● Developing a plan

Big picture
The first Equity and Family Empowerment Newsletter included a 90-day plan which identified three key components: Awareness, Application, and Action. I am providing an update about a few key initiatives that are presently in process, revision, and/or in the final developmental stages - with more information to be shared in the upcoming months:

If you have any questions about the above-mentioned items, or want to become involved in any way, then please touch base!