SHINE! PPS Office of DEI Newsletter
Showing How Inclusivity Nurtures Equity Newsletter
Vol VIII 4/8/22
From the Director's Desk
Happy April! Last month was Women's History Month, however on yesterday another woman made international history. The US Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, which makes her the first Black woman to service as chief justice in it's 233 year history. What an outstanding accomplishment for such an intelligent and well qualified judge. Over the past few weeks of her confirmation, I learned many valuable things from her both personally and professionally. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are three words that currently cause heated debates. We see it in politics across the nation. As educational leaders (Yes, you ARE an educational leader.) we all feel a sense of accountability and often have to be unapologetic when it comes to ensuring that ALL students & colleagues receive equitable opportunities for success. Sadly, across our nation and even in some of our school buildings there are educators who are unapologetic about having no intentions of valuing others' cultures, languages, gender, identities, religions, and ethnicities. There are countless educators who believe in the value of DEI but they are still stagnant, paralyzed even, in their colorblind-one-size-fits all practices. Unfortunately, this leads to educational and instructional leaders struggling to transition from a "well-intentioned believer to a high-impact builder." It is those high-impact builders that close opportunity gaps that exists among our students.
During Judge Jackson's confirmation, some of the questions asked were irrelevant to the position she was being confirmed for. She was attacked, disrespected, and dishonored. She sat poised and unshakeable. Her grace noticeable aggravated some even more. The most disheartening reality was that the line of intense questioning had everything to do with her gender and race. Nicholas Pearce from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, shares three leadership lessons that helps "leaders to get unstuck and, ultimately, better connect their creeds and their deeds."
- Be precise with what "diversity" means in your context. Pearce defines the word “diversity” simply as our human differences, whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, ideology, age/generation, or other factors; it does not expressly refer to particular types of people or assume a particular status hierarchy of haves and have-nots. Just saying "we embrace diversity" doesn't fix issues we are unwilling to face.
- Be prepared to combat the "diversity equals deficiency" myth. When you hear or read about a student who has "extraordinary intellect, character, and integrity", what does that student look like in your mind? The reality is that students of color, girls, students from low income homes, and others from historically marginalized/underrepresented groups are often assumed the exact opposite until proven different. Research has proven that embracing diversity and finding value in the various backgrounds that students bring to the learning experience enhances collaboration, creativity, and performance of not only the students but the educators as well.
- Be at peace with the fact that you will be criticized-no matter what. Progress never occurs in the face of fear. -Fear of being misunderstood, fear of being verbally attacked in a meeting, fear of losing support of colleagues, fear of making some people unhappy and uncomfortable. Opportunity gaps for marginalized students will not occur if we don't "see" students for who they are and value what they bring to the table. Even if what they bring is new or different to what we would have brought. Be at peace when you know you are doing everything to support your students. by "seeing them" and using their lived experiences in your educational environments without implicit biases. The goal of DEI efforts is to transform the environment to a space where all can strive and thrive. Advancing DEI requires courage. It requires being an advocate for the "voiceless" even when it isn't the popular way of thinking. Being transformative isn't easy. But leaders must lead.
In this issue, the Office of DEI shares about cultural celebrations in April, best practices for Ramadan, and Mrs. Meehan from Waterview ES is in our spotlight. This is an exciting time of the year and we are all preparing for Spring Break. No matter if you are going out of town or just staying at home, YOU deserve this break. This school year has been like no other as we all have navigated education in a post-pandemic society. Spring is a time for new beginnings and rejuvenation. Allow your break to do just that for you.
If your school/department is doing innovative things that you would like to share please contact our office.
Recognize, Accept, and Celebrate Diversity!
Follow us on Twitter @PPSOfficeofDEI
Cultural Celebrations in April
There are several cultural celebrations this month. Did you know these were celebrated in April?
- 4/2-5/2 Ramadan (The holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer celebrated by Muslims.)
- 4/2 World Autism Awareness Day (15th anniversary. The goal is to recognize people with autism and improve their lives both fully and meaningfully.)
- 4/15-4/23 Passover (A 7 day holiday in the Jewish faith that honors the freeing of the Israeli slaves.)
- 4/17 Easter (The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith.)
- 4/21-23 Gathering of Nations (A congregation of 500 Native American tribes meet to celebrate their traditions and cultures.)
- 4/22 Earth Day (Established in 1970, it is an international day of celebration for the modern environmental movement and is celebrated in 192 countries.)
- 4/22 National Day of Silence (Created in 1996, Day of Silence is a campaign that seeks to shed light on what many LGBTQ+ youth experience daily with bullying and harassment. Yearly, millions participate by staying silent for the duration of their day, representing the how many LGBTQ+ students' concerns fell on deaf ears."
April is also Arab American Heritage Month. This month the Office of DEI will showcase a notable Arab American on our Twitter page (@PPSOfficeofDEI) daily.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING!!!
Which SCHOOL/DEPARTMENT WILL MAKE NEXT MONTH'S SHARER BOARD?
Mr. Shawn Millaci, CHS 150 views
Dr. Laguna Foster, ICNHS- 148 views
Dr. Wayne Williams, VES- 98 views
Mrs. Karla Jakubowski, CAES-92 views
Dr. Jamill Jones, CES- 88 views
Dr. Faye Felton, HMES- 79 views
Dr. Angela Flowers, PVES- 78 views
Ms. Tammy King, SES-72 views
Mrs. Garyn Moody, LES-71 views
Mrs. Lakisia Jolley-Foster, CRES-69views
Mrs. Rosalyn Exum, CPI-61 views
Dr. Patricia Williams, MHPS- 53 views
April is National Arab American Heritage Month
The achievements of Arab Americans and Arabic-speaking Americans are recognized during the month of April. Across the nation many proclamations have been issued and special events scheduled to celebrate the rich heritage of Arab Americans. Arab American Heritage month was initiated in 2017. In 2021, Congress, the US Department of State, and 37 state governors used proclamations commemorating the initiative. In Virginia, legislation was passed permanently designating April as NAAHM. (House Joint Resolution HJ82, introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul.)
Each day this month, the Office of DEI tweets info on notable Arab Americans. Follow us @PPSOfficeofDEI.
Here are a few educational resources:
- White House letter from President Biden
- 7 Modules: Overview of the Arab World; History of Arab American Immigration; Arab Americans and Religion; Arab American Demographics; Arab American Culture, Customs, and Traditions; Arab American Professions, Education, & Achievements; Issues Facing Arab Americans.
- 2022 Presentation Kit
- PBS-Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month
National Day of Silence
Friday, April 22 is National Day of Silence. It is a campaign that sheds light on what many LGBTQ+ youth experience daily. It was created in 1996 by Maria Pulzetti a student at UVA. She felt that LGBTQ+ youth were being ignored by their parents and school administrators. She created the event as a one time thing during UVA's Pride Week. She believed the day would promote awareness amongst those who might not have been tuned into these issues, by surrounding them with a silence they couldn't help but notice.
A year later, the act went national with over 100 universities participating. In 2000, GLSN, one of the largest LGBTQ+ education networks adopted it as a national project. Today students at all levels participate. Many wear tape over their mouths or Xs on their hands to further call attention to the movement.
It has since grown into schools, workplaces, campuses, and sporting events. Millions participate annually and remain silent all day to represent the silencing of LGBTQ+ students.
In PPS, CHMS's GSA will be participating by holding whiteboards throughout the day for them to use if needed to "speak."
HOW TO OBSERVE DAY OF SILENCE
- Take the vow. Spending the day in silence draws attention to these pressing issues, and may invite productive conversation with work or school mates.
- Organize others. A movement is always powerful with numbers. Encourage your friends to participate with you, and make the silence that much louder.
- Read up on LGBTQ+ issues. Educate yourself--that way, once you can speak again, you can educate others who may be curious about your vow and why you took it.
How to support students and staff during Ramadan
This time of the year is busy in our schools as we are conducting various assessments. Please keep in mind that our Muslim students and teachers may be celebrating the month of Ramadan. The holiday began on April 2 and will end on May 2. During this religious holiday, some Muslims rise before dawn to pray and abstain from eating or drinking, including water, during daylight hours. There may be students and staff who may experience fatigue due to early morning prayer and fasting.
Below are 5 simple things you and your staff can do to support your students and colleagues during the month of Ramadan:
- Have empathy & learn about Ramadan. Many Muslim students and colleagues may not share their faith. Please don’t ask if anyone is observing Ramadan. Instead, assume you have Muslim students/staff and exhibit best professional practices. Ask yourself “Will students/staff feel left out?” If you are not Muslim, educate yourself about Ramadan. There are various forms of expression and the month is not celebrated monolithically.
- Avoid food-centric class events. Some classes host Spring Break or incentive celebrations that include food. Please consider not making these a “main event”. There are some Muslim students and staff who are fasting. Instead, be creative with activities and or games.
- Reduce potentially dangerous physical activity. Muslim students are fasting and may experience low blood sugar, weakness, and other symptoms that make physical activity dangerous. If possible, modify activities and provide alternatives.
- Create a safe space. During Ramadan, Muslim students and staff may require a quiet space. Students may also need a safe space away from the cafeteria during their fasting. Coordinate with your school librarian about Muslim students being able to read or perform other educational alternatives during their lunch period so that they won’t feel overwhelmed and isolated when they are watching their classmates eat lunch.
- Be vigilant and “with-it”. Monitor your Muslim students who may need additional support. There may be some students who have experienced a loss. They could be mourning the loss of loved ones, missing loved ones, or could be missing their home countries. Keep an eye out for students who don’t seem like themselves. Seek support and guidance from your school counselors and other support staff.
- Column: How teachers can support students during Ramadan
- It’s Ramadan. Here’s how to support students and colleagues who are fasting. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/religion/2021/04/14/ramadan-how-to-support-students-and-colleagues-who-fasting/7204962002/
- How Teachers Can Support Students During Ramadan https://sharemylesson.com/blog/how-teachers-can-support-students-during-ramadan
- 5 Ways Teachers Can Help Muslim Students Succeed During Ramadan https://preemptivelove.org/blog/5-ways-teachers-can-help-muslim-students-succeed-ramadan/
- A Ramadan Guide for School Administrators and Teachers https://www.whyislam.org/americanmuslims/ramadanguide/
Ms. Meehan, 3rd grade teacher at Waterview ES
Ms. Meehan coordinated a PHENOMENAL science fair at Waterview Elementary school in March. It was very organized and she invited judges from all over the division to participate. We sat down to chat with her to get more insight on her great work at WES.
What do you teach and how long have you been in education?
I'm a 3rd-grade teacher and this is my 15th year in education.
How did you begin organizing the science fair at WES?
I actually used to be in charge of the science fair at the school where I previously taught. When I ran it there, Ms. Lewis was one of our judges. At that time she was a specialist for the Social Studies department. Ms. Lewis was the principal when I came to Waterview and she asked me if I would be interested in starting it at WES.
What are the "glows" and "grows" from hosting a science fair?
I would say that the best part of the science fair every year is being able to watch the students shine - not just with the projects themselves, because there is so much more to the science fair than just science. It's such a great opportunity for the students to gain presentation and public speaking skills. Many of them come in that day overcome with nerves, and they end up leaving completely confident and proud of their accomplishments. It's an amazing journey to watch them go through. Another positive is the support that we always receive from the community. The event is 100% reliant on volunteers from within our Portsmouth community to serve as judges, and they really show up for our students every single year.
One of the biggest challenges over the past few years was the pandemic. It was really important for us last year when we were virtual to still offer opportunities to the students that we always had before. And, we felt like anything that reminded them of 'normal times' at school was something that we wanted to do. So, it was a lot of work, but we held a completely virtual science fair last year and it was a huge success. Then, moving forward to this year, we again were dealing with some adjustments. We're back in person, but we were still dealing with some restrictions and wanted to err on the side of caution for the safety of everyone involved. So, Mr. Jamison and I spent a lot of time coming up with what would work best for Waterview this year. In the past, students in grades K-2 completed their projects as a class while students in grades 3-6 completed theirs individually. We would have close to 300 projects each year. This year, we decided to have all grade levels complete their projects as a class. That allowed us to limit the amount of items coming in from home, as well as limit the amount of people coming in and out of the event (both students and judges). Like last year, it was different than what we were used to, but I think it went really well, and it was nice to hold an in-person event at school after so long.
What do you love most about working in PPS?
I've spent my entire teaching career in PPS, and I would say what has kept me here so long has been my students and my colleagues, and the fact that I have been fortunate enough to work for some of the most supportive administration teams that I could have ever hoped for.
LIBRARIES HAVE THE BEST BOOKS!
Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui
Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in an Islamic school and now she is going to "real school." She's nervous but she has her best friend Jenna who helps her. Middle school is hard, the teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and she gets the cold shoulder from wearing her hijab. Nimra joins a band secretly and has to decide whether she will betray her bandmates or herself.
The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Michael hangs out with friends and goes to rallies about anti-immigration. It all makes sense to Michael. Until, he meets a beautiful girl named Mina who is a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents' politics seem complicated. As tensions rise, both has to decide which side of the protest they will stand on and have to choose what they want their worlds to look like.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Pete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete pictures by Shane W. Evans
Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He's good at so many things — swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett. But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy — except he has autism. In this story, told from a sister's point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love.
A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
The summer Hattie turns 12, her predictable smalltown life is turned on end when her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in over ten years. Hattie has never met him, never known about him. He's been institutionalized; his condition invovles schizophrenia and autism.
Hattie, a shy girl who prefers the company of adults, takes immediately to her excitable uncle, even when the rest of the family — her parents and grandparents — have trouble dealing with his intense way of seeing the world. And Adam, too, sees that Hattie is special, and that her quiet, shy ways are not a disability.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear - part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.
He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file - a picture of a girl with half a face - that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.
FREE PD FROM VDOE, VCU, AND RU (CLICK THE PIC ABOVE)
This is the pilot program created through the VDOE in response to HB1904 requiring cultural competency training for ALL licensed educators in VA.
With the current changeover of state initiatives, this professional learning opportunity, funded by the VDOE, could yield over 3000 educator participants, which could help build our voice/message regarding the coalescing of efforts. We've already trained over 1000 participants in cohorts 1 and 2 and our feedback has been extremely positive.
BELOW IS THE SUPERINTENDENT'S MEMO FROM 4/6 REGARDING THIS LEGISLATION.