Pulaski County School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers released the following statement prior to this evening’s meeting of the Pulaski County School Board:
Equity Initiative Update
There has recently been a lot of misinformation, conjecture, and false alarms circulating on and off of social media regarding the Pulaski County Public Schools equity initiative. While much work went into the development of our Mission Statement for Racial & Social Equity and the addition of an equity goal to the school division’s comprehensive plan, it has become apparent that not enough was done to communicate with the Pulaski County community about what all of this means. Provided below are the answers to why, what, and how the issues around equity will be addressed for students in Pulaski County.
Why address equity?
- It’s the right thing to do. Removing barriers and improving supports for groups of students who are not successful should be a primary objective for every public school. A refusal to or inability to address known problems could constitute negligence and might reasonably be viewed as the equivalent of saying that there are some children who just don’t deserve to be successful. PCPS has been trying to close SOL achievement gaps and reduce discipline disparities for several years. These equity related efforts are now just part of a larger more inclusive initiative designed to improve our educational programs for students.
- Requirements have been passed by the Virginia General Assembly to be implemented through the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The General Assembly has passed a number of equity related education bills over the past 2 years that require the Virginia Department of Education to prepare guidance and set expectations for local school divisions. The VDOE launched its own equity initiative in 2020 to address increasing cultural
proficiency of Virginia’s educator workforce and to close opportunity gaps for Virginia students. They have set expectations for school divisions to work to create culturally responsive schools, cultivate culturally responsive
leadership, prepare culturally responsive educators, and teach culturally responsive pedagogy. The initial impact of the state’s equity initiative is that social studies standards are being rewritten to include recommendations made by the African American History Education
Commission, teacher licenses will require completion of training in cultural competency, social studies teachers will require complete instruction in African American history, school divisions will be required to develop policies on the treatment of transgender students, and teachers will soon be evaluated on how they develop “culturally inclusive and responsive learning environments.” So, for those who may not believe that our equity mission and plan were the right thing to do, it seems necessary to communicate that addressing these issues isn’t optional. We are entering the era in public education where everything from teaching licenses to school accreditation will be tied to equity focused work for school divisions.
What is (and what isn’t) the PCPS Equity
- The PCPS equity initiative started with a recognition that issues of inequity exist within our schools and that they’ve been around for quite some
- The PCPS equity initiative sets the expectation that all schools provide “an environment that respects every individual regardless of race, gender, intellectual & physical abilities, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, gender expression, family configuration, ethnicity, age, and the language spoken in their homes.” In other words, we have set the expectation that every student and their families be treated with the highest possible regard without
- The PCPS equity initiative establishes the objectives of conducting an equity audit at each school, sharing the results of the equity audits, conducting professional development around equity based concepts, attempt to recruit faculty members that reflect the diversity of our community, allocate instructional resources that reflect the diversity of our community, and develop school cultures that value the diversity of our
- The PCPS equity initiative is not the sacrificing one group of students in favor of another. It is working to make education a positive experience for each
- The PCPS equity initiative is not an attempt to erase anyone’s history. It’s working to make sure that every student feels they are valued and well represented in the history that is being written
- The PCPS equity initiative is not an effort to indoctrinate children into denying their gender. It’s teaching children to respect others whose appearance, beliefs, and life choices may be different from their
How will PCPS proceed with its equity initiative?
- PCPS administrators will be trained in areas of cultural competence and adaptive leadership in order to be better prepared to lead our schools in the work that will be needed to address community, state, and federal
- Each school will complete an equity audit before the end of the current school year and the findings of the audit will be shared with the School
- Each school will form an equity team that is made up of faculty, staff, parents, and students to advise its administrators on how to move
- PCPS will develop a plan and secure the resources necessary to prepare its educators for implementing the changes that are coming down from the Virginia Department of
- PCPS will look for additional ways to engage our community around its work in
Pulaski County Public Schools takes seriously its commitment to provide meaningful instruction to each student that is served in our schools. The equity mission that was launched earlier this year simply establishes a set of guiding principles that will help us create an educational culture where each child feels valued, inspired, and empowered to succeed at any level. Working to make life better for children should be a concept that every member of a community can support. Hopefully, this will become the case for Pulaski County.