Equity in D207
District 207 started its Equity Journey over a decade ago when Dr. Wallace set a course for the District to better serve ALL students. Over the years we have sought to break down the barriers that limited access to academic rigor and robust support for students regardless of identity and perceived ability. The District has now evolved in its equity work to focus on tackling larger, more systemic barriers to success that are sometimes out of our control, but not outside the reach of our influence.
As a means to this end, the District has undertaken a journey first to understand, and then to implement, the changes necessary to personalize the education of each and every student we serve. An essential component to realizing this is to seek equity for all of our students and we invite all of you to be part of that journey. It is for that reason that we are launching our monthly newsletter “Equity in D207”.
Each month we will chronicle the work of the Building and District Equity Teams by providing information about discussions, committee work, and recommendations regarding the affirmation of the identities, abilities, and voices of our diverse community, as well as tips and opportunities for our entire staff to learn more as they start their personal journeys around equity.
We hope you enjoy!
The District Equity Leadership Team (DELT)
The District recently created a video that provides an overview of the equity work being done on behalf of students and staff. It outlines the equity team’s purpose to support the individuals in the organization as well as examine our systems, practices and policies with an equity lens. Many members of the Equity Leadership Team share their thoughts about the work being done. Additionally, information is provided related to the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) Training that is occurring across the district.
Update from DELT
The District 207 Equity team was formed at the start of the 2019-20 school year. The team worked to establish a vision for equity in district 207 through the development of the district equity statement and guiding principles. During the first semester of this year our team was organized into sub-committees to identify areas of focus that will help us to reach that vision. This semester we prioritized specific action steps identified by the sub-committees and are beginning work on those actions. Stay tuned for an update on our action steps in next month’s newsletter! You can see a list of DELT team members here.
Please click here to see our Equity Team’s message about Ramadan that was shared with staff, including ideas for how you can help create a welcoming environment for our Muslim students, families and staff.
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The Muslim month of Ramadan will begin April 12th. The equity team would like to share some information with you about this holiday. Ramadan is on a lunar cycle and starts on a different day each year. The exact start and end dates depend on when the new moon appears that month so an exact date can not be determined. However, this year it will begin April 12th and conclude approximately one month later. The day after the month of Ramadan ends is known as Eid and is a holiday and celebration for the Muslim community.
Ramadan is the holiest time of year in the Muslim calendar and is a month-long period of prayer, reflection, and fasting – a time for Muslims to celebrate the revelation of the Quran. As we strive to create a welcoming environment for all of our students, staff and families, it is important for us to understand that during the month of Ramadan students who observe the fast (one of the Five Pillars of Islam) abstain from all food and drink (including water) between dawn and sunset each day. For our community members celebrating Ramadan, it is common to awake before 4:00 am to have their first meal of the day with family and in the evening to be involved in prayer at home or at their mosque each of the 29-30 days. Please keep this in mind if you notice that students or colleagues appear tired or hungry during the day.
Here is how you can help create a welcoming environment for our Muslim students, staff and families during Ramadan. Although these recommendations were developed by our team prior to our current pandemic, we believe that they apply to our virtual classrooms and interactions:
- Make accommodations available to all students rather than just for students who practice Islam. A person’s faith and choices around practicing ones’ faith are highly personal and oftentimes are not something individuals are comfortable sharing. Rather than asking students to identify themselves, build accommodations into your teaching routines that support all students.
- Let your students know that you are aware that the month of Ramadan has begun and invite students to talk with you if they are having a challenging time completing a requirement for your class.
- For students who are Muslim it is fine to say, “Happy Ramadan.” (Same as Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah).
- Be sensitive to fasting students and consider providing extended time when an assignment might be challenging to complete because of evening prayers or sheer exhaustion.
- Plan food-centric events for a time before or after Ramadan or if necessary, allow students to opt-out of activities where there might be food or snacks.
- Reduce physical activity that could be potentially dangerous to individuals who are fasting. Abstaining from food and drink can result in feeling weak or becoming dizzy if one overexerts oneself. Some students will be fine engaging normally; however, giving students the ability to engage differently in classes such as physical education goes a long way in supporting them through their school day.
- Students should be encouraged to observe the holiday of Eid with their families and community. Any absence on this day should be excused and work permitted to be made up.
We are including a few links to some additional information about Ramadan for your reference. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact an equity team member in your building. As you encounter those who are making such devotions this month, thank you for extending encouragement and understanding.
Maine Township District 207 Equity Leadership Team
From the DELT
The following topics were discussed at this month’s DELT meeting
All the members of the equity team are on a committee that is assigned to a specific project for
this semester. Review an update on the status of this work here.
A concern arose from a member of the group that if a staff member wanted to take off
from work to observe a religious holiday they were required to use a sick/personal day. After some research it was identified that this is not the case for certified staff; however, it is the case for non-certified staff. The District will be working to extend this benefit to all employees of the District. Click here to reference the language from the bargaining agreement on this topic
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Section 2. Religious Holidays. Each bargaining unit member shall be given up to two (2) work days without loss of pay for leaves on religious holidays other than school holidays. Only those holidays designated as primary holy days on the Interfaith Calendar of World Religions (www.interfaithcalendar.org) are eligible for religious holiday leave. Requests for any additional religious holiday leaves shall be presented in writing to the principal, with a copy to the Superintendent, a minimum of five (5) work days prior to the leave. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall make the final determination concerning the approval of additional religious holiday leaves. If approved, the first two (2) work days of religious holiday leave will not be deducted from a bargaining unit member’s accumulated sick leave. Requests for additional leave days for religious holidays will be charged to personal business leave, which are deducted from a bargaining unit member’s accumulated sick leave.
This did raise the issue of – What can a student expect if they want to observe a
religious holiday? The Team will be working with the principals to address this issue
and make that accommodation known to students.
A concern was raised about the equitable treatment of individuals based on their vaccination status. If you are choosing not to receive a vaccine at this time, we understand and respect that decision. It is important for everyone to know that we are not currently requiring staff to receive the vaccine as long as they are attending work as directed by their supervisor. While it may seem like the District is pushing, this is out of the desire to impact the effects of the Pandemic on our community. New CDC guidance allows for social distancing of 3 feet for vaccinated staff and unvaccinated students so we are interested in returning to a “normal” school environment as soon as we can.
How do I get involved?
The building and district equity teams know that many of you want to get involved in our equity work and we believe that it takes all of us to move this work forward. Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Attend equity sessions in your building and district when offered in the mornings and be on the look out for materials and activities shared by your building’s equity team.
- Take advantage of learning opportunities offered in your community (we will start posting some in this newsletter as we become aware of them)
- Participate in the D207 Read Woke Challenge
- Take advantage of our district’s summer learning opportunities (to be announced soon!)
- Sign up for SEED (if you have not already done so) Registration coming in April
- Start a conversation with your PLC about how your team can address equity in your curriculum – Does your curriculum represent multiple perspectives and voices? Does your data illustrate any equity gaps that need addressed?
- Complete your own 21 day Equity Challenge, here are some options: