Last week, I shared some of my thoughts on the issues of racism and inequality currently facing our nation and how we must move forward as a school system. As educators and education support professionals, you make a lasting impact on students and have the opportunity to reinforce values and attitudes that support meaningful change in our schools and communities. As an organization, we have the responsibility to continue on a thoughtful and deliberate approach that provides resources to support and sustain your efforts.
One of the points I raised with headquarters employees during last week’s All Hands meeting was the importance of action over rhetoric. Words matter, but they must be followed with concrete steps to effect lasting change. With that in mind, I am directing a number of actions over the following weeks, beginning with amending the Fiscal Year 2021 Director’s Focus to include Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Operations as an area of emphasis.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion must become embedded in everything we do, from curriculum and assessment to hiring and professional development. We must not simply celebrate equity, diversity and inclusion, it must be actively pursued for all our students and employees. It must be a foundational premise in every aspect of our organization.
Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of equity-related work by DoDEA’s Civil Rights Working Group and several staff divisions. There were pockets of progress, but the work lacked a systemic approach that would combine the strength of our commitment with an agency-wide framework and in-depth resources to create a sustainable environment of equitable practice across our organization.
With this in mind, I have directed the development of a DoDEA REDI Operations Team four-phase action plan that we will begin to implement at the beginning of School Year 2020-2021. Our work will start with senior leaders and lead to identifying culturally responsive teaching standards and professional learning around implicit/explicit bias. It will determine the actions required to continue our progress in reducing achievement gaps and make resources available to educators and parents to partner in this endeavor.
To be successful, we must be inclusive and ensure all the voices in our schools are heard. My commitment to Listen, Learn and Act means that we are accountable to make real progress and will update our employees, parents, students and community stakeholders regularly.
To begin important, and sometimes difficult conversations, we have assembled a body of resources on anti-racism, diversity and social justice for parents and teachers to use with our military-connected students and families.
It is no coincidence that I selected Juneteenth to announce these initial steps. This is a holiday founded in hope, yet tempered by suffering and injustice. I am hopeful that, as a nation, we are on the cusp of real transformation in addressing racism and inequity. DoDEA’s Core Values, as an organization, describe who we are, but our actions now will define what we can become, together. There is much work to be done, and it’s time to get started.