Equity and Family Empowerment

Winchester Public Schools - October/November 2022

2022-2023 Cultural & Religious Observances

Acknowledging cultural and religious observations in classrooms, school buildings, and division-wide are essential to cultivating student and employee belonging. Our goal this school year for fostering belonging is to focus on the rich cultural diversity represented in Winchester Public Schools. An excellent example of such was this Hispanic Heritage Month video prompted and led by Mr. Sam Aguilar Chavez of Frederick Douglass Elementary School.

We want to continue this creative idea! With this in mind, Maggie McCampbell Lien - WPS Public Information Officer - and I will be collaborating to highlight more of our students and employees in various capacities.

Have an idea? Feel free to connect with us at Maggie McCampbell Lien and Veronique N. Walker.


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 will be updated as more resources become available.

Feel free to submit any resources you'd like to share to Veronique N. Walker.

Delving Deeper: A Focus on Latin American History with Mr. Mike McKiernan

John Handley High School offers a unique opportunity for high school students to enroll in an elective Latin American History course. Forty-one percent of WPS students identify as Hispanic and/or Latino/a/x, which amplifies the importance of offering a culturally responsive opportunity to explore the social, cultural, political, environmental, and economic developments of Latin America.

Mr. Mike McKiernan, who instructs the Latin American History course, expounded on the importance of "studying any area, origin, ethnicity, and history in-depth...whether it be yours or someone else’s." He explained that high school history courses tended to be survey courses, meaning there is a lot of material to cover. Latin American History, however, "allows you to really delve into a historical topic, which is important both culturally and educationally...which cannot be done in a typical high school survey course."

A goal for Mr. McKiernan is to facilitate meaningful dialogue and to guide students to create in-depth projects, some of which include a TED talk, podcasts, and murals. Each student's project is to span a couple of centuries and involve a major Latin American theme - allowing them to learn about a different culture through a critical lens. Mr. McKiernan explained that students of Latin descent often used the project as an opportunity to explore topics that have impacted their families - leading to the chance to expand their perspective based on historical sources.

One past "push/pull" research assignment for the class involved interviewing individuals and exploring what "pushed" Latin American families from their respective countries and "pulled" them to the Winchester area, resulting in rich content for class discussions.

When considering supporting cultural responsiveness within a classroom, Mr. McKiernan encourages celebrating other cultures by acknowledging and emphasizing strengths beyond entertainment and food. For example, he explained how Latin America has amazing writers, poets, intellectuals, etc. and incorporating them into the curriculum is how he honors the culture.

While Mr. McKiernan has concerns about teaching about a region with which many of his students are more familiar, he believes a teacher can be successful if they are willing to listen to and respect their students and their unique perspective.

Family Engagement Feedback

Family Engagement Families Students Schools
Thank you for taking a moment to complete our Family Engagement Inquiry. Click here if you are still interested in submitting feedback.

The following comments are a sampling of current practices or suggestions shared by WPS colleagues about strengthening family engagement:

  • Lumping events together instead of stand-alone events.
  • Home visits/neighborhood visits - great for students to see us in "their" world and for us to better know our students when we see "their" world.
  • Send home positive messages about the day, pictures of work, etc.
  • Showing and appreciating diversity among our students and in our community. Last year, for the first time in my life, I celebrated Ramadan to show the importance of appreciating diverse perspectives. This allowed some of my students to be the "expert" in the room and empowered them to share about their family and culture. Of course I also connect this to literacy through reading, writing, vocabulary, etc.
  • I use project-based learning in my classroom. When students finish a project, I either invite parents in to see the results or create a virtual version of the product that can be sent home to everyone.
  • Explicitly invite parents into the classroom or school. They are more likely to visit if they are directly invited by using individual invitations rather than a social media blast or an email to everyone.
  • Ask parents want they want - either through surveys or discussions.
  • Providing dinner for busy families so they can attend [school / evening events].
  • We need to go out into the community and attend [community] events.
  • Meeting families where they are. Having an understanding of risk and protective factors. Understanding barriers that prevent or hinder access.

More to come!

Holiday Student Sponsorship Through Bright Futures

Bright Futures—Frederick/Winchester is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing our community together to focus on the success of children in Winchester and Frederick County Public Schools. This grassroots movement uses the Bright Futures framework to engage businesses, human service agencies, faith-based organizations, and parent groups within communities to meet the needs of children so every child can be successful, now and in the future. - Bright Futures.

Bright Futures is focusing on supporting families this holiday season. If you or someone you know would like to donate, then please consider the following recommended amounts:

Purchase gifts for one or more children in a family.

  • $150 sponsors 1 child
  • $450 sponsors 3 children
  • $900 sponsors 6 children

Go online to sign up at brightfuturesfrederickcounty.org.

Checks can be mailed to: Bright Futures-Frederick/Winchester, 178 Indian Hollow Road, Winchester VA 22603

Give Online at: https://bit.ly/BFmonetarygift

Volunteer opportunities are also available. Contact Elise Stine-Dolinar at 540-667-2490 or stinedoe@fcpsk12.net for more information.

Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council

Volunteers for Student Mentoring

Equity in Action

Reminder: VDOE Cultural Competency Training Module

The 40-minute training module provides foundational information on upcoming WPS initiatives. Additionally, two continuing education credit hours are available through PowerSchool, which meets the cultural competency training requirement (Code of Virginia § 22.1-298.7) for every person seeking initial licensure or renewal of a license.

5 Ways Culturally Responsive Teaching Benefits Learners

A growing body of research shows that culturally responsive teaching practices can provide students with a range of social and cognitive benefits.

WPS Affinity Group Application

Opportunities to begin an employee affinity group remain available.

Affinity groups provide a network of individuals with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals to act together for a specific purpose. Benefits of having an affinity group / network include, and are not limited to:

· an increase in job satisfaction and morale through support;

· cultivating inclusivity and a place of belonging;

· attracting, recruiting, and retaining employees; and

· professional growth and development through sharing and mentorship.

Click here to access the application.

Monthly Thought: Amplifying Student Voice & Choice

As I reflect on my years working in the educational system, students have provided some of the most impactful equity feedback. They consistently echoed renowned educational researchers and practitioners about what they - the students - needed to thrive...based on their perspective and experiences.

This year was no exception!

Student leaders from John Handley High School participated in a dynamic professional learning opportunity for educators at the beginning of 2022-2023. The students provided key insights about their academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs and what, from their perspectives, will help them thrive! I valued their authenticity and vulnerability to share what was most important to them.

Thank you to each person who attended the sessions. Your keen engagement inspired each student more than you may know. As a reminder - or if you were unable to attend a session - here is what they shared.