Santa Barbara Unified School District’s board clerk Wendy Sims-Moten partnered with new board member Virginia Alvarez to create a board resolution “affirming the district’s commitment to justice through equity-driven policies, procedures and practices.”
It was passed unanimously by the board Tuesday evening.
“I do want to point out the why of this resolution, it is directly tied to the why of the district, and the why of the district the mission is to educate kids,” Ms. Alvarez said.
“There’s one phrase that Wendy and I talked about when we were working on this resolution. And this really resonates with me, when it says achieving equity is when students’ identity does not predetermine their success in school,” she said.
Ms. Sims-Moten also spoke to the importance of including every student across school policies.
“Equity is a fundamental principle, that must be part of what we do,” she said. “It gives us the guidelines, it gives us the base, and the foundation as we go through all of our systems.
“When we look through our budget, when we look through communication, are we communicating in an equitable way? Or what we are doing isn’t really getting at the heart, as Ms. Alvarez said, the education of our students.”
The resolution states that its intent is to “publicly commit to accelerate our efforts around diversity, inclusion, and racial equity through equity-driven allocation of resources; safe, rigorous, and affirming learning environments and supplemental instructional programs; and building the capacity of diverse teams that are more reflective of our students, including, increased workforce diversity.”
A total of 15 community members commented on the resolution.
“Distance Learning has highlighted many inequalities in our education system,” said Daniel Gonzalez, organizing director for Future Leaders of America. “And no more is that shown than with the amount of F’s our youth have received in this midterm report.
“Our students’ education system needs a complete overhaul. And that is what I believe this new resolution is working on addressing is the lack of support and resources needed for the most marginalized students in our district, with an emphasis on equity rather than equality.”
The resolution defines equity as giving each student what they need to succeed, whereas equality gives “the same amount of resources, instruction, attention, etc.”
“Our students deserve to have mirrors in the classroom, people that understand them and understand their rich histories and contributions to our communities,” Chelsea Lancaster, student program advisor at Santa Barbara City College, said.
Some public commenters expressed concern about the resolution’s lack of measurable goals but all were pleased by the board’s direction.
The resolution authorizes Superintendent Hilda Maldonado to change the hiring practices to better represent the ethnic makeup of the district’s students.
“Since the school board only has one employee, the superintendent, I was also gratified to approve a resolution that directs the superintendent to ensure that this equity policy drives all decision making. We will expect to hear updates on the ways that we are actively putting our statements into action,” Board President Kate Ford said in a statement to the News-Press.
She also pointed out the strain COVID-19 has put on already disadvantaged groups, saying “the gap between haves and have nots has grown wider and wider.”
“We can’t just stop with saying equity. We have to continually beat the drum and do the work,” board member Laura Capps said. “It isn’t just words; there is real action in this resolution.”
She pointed to the hiring directives, in particular revising job descriptions, roles and responsibilities. The resolution calls for an evaluation process of district employees to ensure their commitment to equity.
The board also passed a resolution to celebrate Black History Month.
“Of course we must commit to ensuring that our students develop a greater understanding of the roles African Americans have played throughout the history of our nation all year round, but Black History Month in particular is a time for celebration and reflection,” Ms. Ford said.
The two resolutions were drafted by Ms. Sims-Moten and Ms. Alvarez with some input by Ms. Ford.