Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Fall 2021 Newsletter

A Message from Toya Spencer

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I joined Worthington Schools! As I reflect on my first year, I am grateful for the many people who walked alongside me, supported, encouraged and invited me into the Worthington community. Every smile, hug, note of thanks or job well-done from either students, parents, teachers and my colleagues was just what I needed!


Thank you for welcoming me and supporting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Worthington Schools. The best is yet to come!


Toya Spencer

Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Achieving Equity & Inclusion in Worthington Schools

Worthington School’s goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive school district requires change or what I like to say, "opportunity for growth." Now...wait...before you react, let’s pause and consider. We embrace the change in seasons or a change in hair color - but when it comes to changing perspectives or the “ways that we’ve always done things”, we struggle. Despite the discomfort it brings; change is good. It is healthy. And it is a necessary element of continuous improvement. Yet, while we know “change is the only constant in life”, when faced with the opportunity to do so, we often resist.


In Worthington Schools, we are faced with an opportunity for growth. Our mission in Worthington Schools is: “empowering a community of learners who will change the world!” Did you know this “community” of learners is 68% White students, 32% students of Color, and 1500 students who live in multilingual homes representing 58+ language backgrounds! We are a diverse public school district - and that requires us to shift in our understanding of how to serve all of our students. To learn more about how we are doing this in Worthington Schools, click here.

A History of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Worthington Schools

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2020: A Year in Review

While the world was riddled with a global pandemic, protests over racial injustices were erupting in communities across the U.S. and education systems around the world were severely hit with more than 188 countries forced to close schools in March; in Worthington, we were also navigating this new reality. However, in the midst of uncertainty, we decided to deepen our resolve in embracing the diversity of our community while courageously challenging ourselves to be a more inclusive and equitable school district.


With the Board of Education (BOE) having identified the 2020-2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goal of: “growing district focus on equity, diversity and inclusion as an essential priority for a healthy learning community”, the task at hand was clear and I decided to focus on a few areas: 1) Build Relationships 2) Gather Data and 3) Communication.


Building Relationships through FCT™ (Familiarity, Comfort & Trust)

I believe strong relationships built on trust are at the foundation of our success. During the first three months in my role, I visited every building and had meetings with every principal to understand their building culture and needs as well as uncover ways that I could support them in reaching their building DEI goals. Additionally, I met with BOE members to more deeply understand their hopes for our school district. To gain insight into our students of color experiences in our high schools, I met with a group of students from TWHS and WKHS. Separately, I learned through a focus group with female students how we could make our STEM programs more inclusive. Not to miss out on an opportunity to meet and hear from teachers of color about their experiences, I hosted two listening sessions. I met with the PTA Council as well as several of our PTA DEI subcommittees. It was good time spent making great connections!


At an administrative level, I was welcomed into monthly meetings with our elementary and secondary principals. We did a deep dive into the book, So you want to talk about race. I received invitations to speak from community organizations such as Worthington Noon Lions Club, Worthington Community Relations Commission, Worthington Interfaith Neighbors, and Worthington Alliance of Black Families and Educators. I was appreciative of the sincere interest and support shown by our community.


Gathering Data

For the fourth year, we gathered student data by administering the Student survey through our partner, Panorama Education. We were able to add new measures for students (in grades 6-12) of Diversity & Inclusion and Cultural Awareness and Action.


Additionally and for the first time, we surveyed our teachers and staff. From these surveys, we gained insight into their perceptions of Cultural Awareness and Action, Professional Learning About Equity and Educating All Students and Sense of Belonging.


Communication

The DEI webpage was created to familiarize our school community with how we define the terms diversity, inclusion and equity; our DEI Commitment Statement, the DEI Helpline, the Discrimination Incident Report Form as well as information on Cultural and Heritage celebrations.


The Impact of Implicit Bias Training

At 98%, our classified staff has led our district in completing our foundational DEI class, The Impact of Implicit Bias. We used content created by the OSU Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Here are a few reactions from staff that attended the class.


“ THANK YOU to you and your co-teachers for an awesome Implicit Bias class. I really enjoyed it and thought you guys did an awesome job teaching it. I feel more informed on the topic and motivated to use the knowledge I acquired to be better at recognition of my implicit biases” - Worthington employee


I enjoyed the class. However, I did have some reservations but was pleasantly surprised. It gave me a lot to think about” - Worthington employee


DEI Professional Resources Library

The Diversity Equity and Inclusion Professional Resource Library is a collection of books for Worthington educators, curated by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department. The books are intended to increase educators’ understanding and build competency around such topics as: creating inclusive classrooms around all aspects of diversity, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, fostering civil discourse and implicit bias.


Ms. Toya reads Program

“My students this year have enjoyed the stories and engaged in heartfelt dialogue about humanity...They ask for more “Miss Toya reads stories.” Thank you for this beautiful gift of open dialogue about culture and diversity.”

- Elementary Teacher


“Thank you for teaching us about different cultures & traditions like Piggy & Ramadan” - Elementary student


To celebrate the diversity that thrives in our school community, the Ms. Toya reads Program provides video book read-alouds each month to elementary school teachers to share with their students. Last year, we welcomed student readers from middle school, high school and even some employees from the Worthington Education Center. Here are a few from May (Asian American Heritage month & Jewish American Heritage Month) and April (Autism Acceptance Month).


Bilal Cooks Daal

Reader: Benu Dhamija from Worthington Tech Services


Emma's Poem

Reader: Zoe Kellner from Phoenix Middle School

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What's Happening in 2021?

The Building Champions for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are a group of educators who are committed to leading DEI efforts in their building. As a community of leaders who partner with the DEI Director to support the overall district goals and with their principal to implement building goals, they are tasked with the following:

  • Consistently challenge your own behaviors & actions to identify areas of growth

  • Understand and influence your own emotions & the emotions of others

  • Lead with vulnerability, humility and courage

  • Leverage “call-in” techniques and not “calling out” techniques when addressing behaviors or actions

  • Creates safe spaces to have difficult conversations


Their work is focused on three areas: 1) Self Development & Professional Development (i.e. DiSC assessments, Courageous Conversations, etc.) 2) District-Level (i.e. examining district trends & exploring possible solutions, etc.) and 3) Building-Level (understanding building culture, DEI needs, etc.)


They are currently creating plans to organize and lead The Impact of Implicit Bias training with the certified staff in their building.


Ms. Toya reads Program & Culture Heritage Resource Guides

For our elementary schools, we continue to video record read-alouds of beautiful picture books that celebrate the culture, heritage and heroes of all backgrounds.


Additionally, we share a Cultural & Heritage Resource Guide with all Pre-K through 12 teachers. It includes booklists, activities and lesson plans.


Care After School & Impact of Implicit Bias Training

Care After School is a non-profit organization that operates in Worthington Schools and serves families with children in grades K-5 by providing safe, enjoyable and affordable childcare. As a partner who engages with Worthington students, they wanted to ensure they were in alignment with our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. To that end, the CAS leadership team worked with the Worthington Schools DEI Department to provide the Impact of Implicit Bias training to the CAS staff.

COMING SOON

Panorama Family-School Relationships Survey

New this year, we are asking families to participate in the Family-School Relationships Survey. Families have the chance to tell us about your experiences with us as a school district. We want to better understand you and your families’ needs so that we continue to provide high quality, rigorous learning experiences that meet the needs of all our students.


We are partnering with Panorama Education, a third-party vendor, to support us in administering this survey. This is the same partner that administers our student surveys.


The survey shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to complete and will also be administered during the same two-week window as the student surveys - from November 8 - November 19, 2021.


We will share the results of the survey with the community.


Equity Audit

The equity audit will be completed in December 2021. The Equity Audit is a tool that aids in assessing our institutional practices. This tool explores indicators that assess the current state of an organization, its stakeholders, board members, employment, and hiring practices. In short, it measures how equity shows up in a district across the following functional areas:

  • Governance & Leadership

  • Supplier Diversity

  • Resources & Finance

  • Pedagogies & Curriculum

  • Talent & Adult Culture


We will share the results of the equity audit with the community.