As a call to action to address issues of equity and justice grows across the U.S., Vancouver Public Schools will launch a district equity initiative in 2020-21.

“For the past 12 years, a commitment to equity has been embedded into our mission statement and the six goal areas of our district’s strategic plan,” said Steve Webb, superintendent. “Now we will take a major step by elevating and bringing greater focus to this work. It is our moral imperative.”

In announcing this initiative, VPS commits to the following actions:

  1. The superintendent will form an equity advisory group. This group will include representatives from student and parent communities of color, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, League of United Latin American Citizens, Vancouver Education Association and others. This group also will have an appointed school board director who will serve as a liaison to the VPS Board of Directors. The purpose of this group will be to inform the response to a district-initiated equity audit to be performed this fall.
  2. VPS will hire a chief equity officer, which will be a cabinet-level position. The position will interface routinely with staff responsible for student attendance and welfare, school operations, teaching and learning, community schools, human resources and student discipline. This role will be integral to advancing efforts to cultivate more culturally responsive schools and classrooms. The chief equity officer also will provide direct leadership of the district’s equity initiative.
  3. The district will initiate a third-party equity audit of the following areas: board policy, district programs, curriculum/assessments, district instructional practices, district hiring and placement practices, school building resource allocations and culture and climate. Other areas could be added later. This work will begin in the fall. As soon as the audit is completed, the equity advisory group will be engaged in examining the findings, prioritizing the actions, reviewing the plan and monitoring the district’s progress.
  4. VPS will continue to work with UCLA Center for Civil Rights, Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the district-formed Discipline Equity Steering Committee on more equitable student discipline outcomes.

“We can, and we must, work together to create a more just and equitable school system,” said Webb. “I am hopeful that together, we can address the issues of inequity, institutional and implicit bias and racism. Our students deserve nothing less.”

Let’s take a closer look at their statements:

  • An “equity advisory group” will be formed from “communities of color” to report on an “equity audit” to be done
  • The will hire an “Equity Officer” at what cost? This is to be a “cabinet level” position so an employee will tell elected board members what and how to think?
  • Third party audit? Who? What are their qualifications? Will this group find what they are hired to find…issues that need correction?

Their closing statement says it all….”…we can address the issues of inequality, institutional and implicit bias and racism.”  So each of us sees and filters and interprets in different ways but we will all be expected to accept and march to their interpretations and drum beat? Are parent really going to accept this? Really?

You might wonder why the picture of Hugh O’Brian above. He made a statement when he created a youth foundation that has helped hundreds of thousands of students that is relevant and we’ll leave you with as a parting thought:

“I do not believe we are all born equal – created equal in the eyes of God, yes – but physical and emotional differences, parental guidance, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual’s development. But I do believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize his or her own potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist, or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?””

— Hugh O’Brian | April 19, 1925 – September 5, 2016