Equity Accelerator Fellowship
Final Peer Sharing and Reflections
Welcome, everyone. We’re delighted to have you back for our final session for the Equity Accelerator. So, we’re using our last professional learning session to take a look back at the work that we did over the last year and in the professional learning series, as well as in our fellowship. And it has been a fast impact year, so hence the term accelerated. And really the accelerated piece is accelerating the priority around centering equity in our work, because this really is a lifelong journey. There really is no end. So, my name is Christina Pate. I serve as the director of the Equity Accelerator, and it’s been truly an honor and a pleasure to serve as the convener and the connector of some really amazing experts and coaches and thought leaders, as well as our incredible group of fellows who are in the workday in and day out.
We are incredibly grateful to have served alongside you as you work toward a vision of equity in your own county offices of education. So, as a brief reminder of the project overall, this is part of the COVID Education Equity Response Collaborative, which is funded by the Bechtel Family Foundation. And WestEd led a yearlong Equity Accelerator to support the California county offices in improving the alignment of whole child, whole school efforts that cohere around a vision of equity. And we used a two-tiered approach this year. So, we had a statewide professional learning series that was available to all 58 county offices, which is technically what today’s event is part of. And then we also had an intensive fellows program for currently eight county offices of education.
So, we explored lots of equity related topics, including adult mindsets and biases that really underlie our education policies and practices, stakeholder agency, voice and choice, and co-design and co-leadership, environments and relationships, and alignment of whole person, whole school efforts that cohere to that shared vision of equity. So, these were all covered broadly in our professional learning series, but we really dove deep into some of these topics in the fellowship, as well as a lot of that personal transformation and professional change management that has to occur in order for all of that to actualize. And, of course, here are our participating counties in the fellowship portion. So, we have Butte, Del Norte, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Tulare. So, 16 fellows from our eight county offices have done some really intensive work this year, both personally and collectively, and it’s been an honor to be on this journey with them. And that’s who we’re gonna hear a lot from today.
So, that’s a little bit about the Equity Accelerator. Here is our amazing team that I have the privilege of working with every day. So, our equity coaches, Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard and Terna Tilley-Gyardo, and from WestEd, Cherry Hannah, Laura Buckner, Lauren Trout, and Jenny Betz, all of whom you will hear from today. And on behalf of our team and without further ado, this is where we’re headed. So, we’re gonna start off with a brief year in review, and then Rachelle and Terna will share a few reflections on their experiences as coaches. Then we’ll hear from Lauren about their reflection on co-leading the affinity groups this year. Jenny will share a little bit about her reflections as well as introduce the county offices for us. And then we’re gonna move into some reflections and learnings from our county office fellows, and then we’re gonna close the recorded part of our session and have some private time with our fellows to celebrate and reflect.
All right, so our last year was quite full, as I said. The intention for this project overall was really to create a safe space for our stakeholders to connect and learn and support each other in personal, collective healing and transformation, so that they can then begin co-creating equitable and sustainable change. And so, I’m always thinking about my own role in this work. And my bounce of confidence in this work is I am a lifelong learner as well. And so as the lead of the project, my hope is really to create an opportunity where WestEd could serve as the convener and connector of people, of processes, of products, and then really bring in subject matter experts, thought leaders, equity coaches, and others who can really help us to co-create an experience that responds in real time to some of the fellows’ needs. And so therefore we worked to create a sort of flexible and adaptive and dynamic and ever evolving experience, which I’m not gonna lie, has been challenging to do in a year.
I feel like we’re really just getting started, but I think some incredible seeds were planted this year, and I can’t wait to see what blossoms in the future. So, we kicked off last December with our fellows for a welcome session followed by a professional learning session for all county offices in January. The focus of that was asset framing for equity in education and that was led by bestselling author, Trabian Shorters. And then in February, our WestEd thought leaders, Erin Browder and David Lopez led a session on their shared work, which focuses on creating equitable education systems by addressing those adult mindsets and that systemic behavior and bias. So, their session really focused on three core tensions that adults working to foster equitable education systems often experience, which is personal, structural, and strategic.
So, along with that session in the asset framing webinar, I think that really laid a nice foundation for our work for the remaining year. And then in the spring, we hosted our second professional learning session to all 58 county offices on stakeholder voice, agency, and co-creation for equity and education. So, this session featured Zoe Jenkins of the Kentucky Student Voice team and Civics Unplugged, as well as Zachary Patterson of the San Diego Unified School District board and the California Student Board Member Association. And what a powerful session that one was. So check that out. And then our April fellows peer session was led by the Equity Accelerator coaches, Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard, and Terna Telley-Gyardo, with the support of our Equity Accelerator TA team.
And this session was really designed to build community among fellows and really provide a safe space for them to reflect on their experiences with race and racism. So, in order to support these conversations, we split into two affinity groups, one for participants for people of the global majority, and the other for who identify as white. And after this session, fellows were offered voluntary spaces for affinity groups outside of our regular peer sessions. Then in May, we hosted a session featuring Kelly Knoche and Lindsay Fuller of the Teaching Well. They led an interactive session on the intersections of leaders’ mental health and systems change and equity. And then in June, our fellows had an opportunity to learn from our coach, Rachelle, about critical race theory and some of the challenges that county offices are facing in some of the current political environment, and how to work through some of those challenges.
And then in July, we had another opportunity to reflect midway and really reflect on our journey and think about where we wanted to go for the rest of the project. And in August, the TA team provided a primer on NEP’s Liberatory Design and heard from a panel of fellows who are actually implementing some of these practices and processes of Liberatory Design in big and small ways. So, a big shout out to our fellows from Santa Clara, Tulare, and San Diego County Offices of Education for their contributions to a really rich discussion in August. Then we wrapped up our fellows experience last month in October with a session that debriefed a bit on Liberatory Design, as well as discussed elements of change management, equitable resource allocation, and school design, and ended with some racial affinity breakout groups. That was a lot.
And our fellows have been doing some amazing work this year. And here we are in our final month, I can’t believe it. But we’ve had so many insights and revelations, especially the last couple months and especially in those coaching sessions. So, I think that’s actually a perfect segue into some reflections by our coaches. And I’m gonna ask Terna if she would mind beginning with that.
Hello, greetings, everyone. My name is Terna Telley-Gyardo. And I had the opportunity to hold the space as one of the equity coaches this year. And there are a few things that I wanna offer as reflections, and specifically reflections I hope that can feed ongoing movement towards equity, not only for fellows, but for anyone who’s watching and engaged in this work. And the first one is about trust. So at the beginning, it sounded like a year was a long time, but then the year happens. And as Christina said, it’s really felt like it actually took all of this time to get to a place of trust, or at least the very beginning taste of trust with fellows to really be able to get to that deeper, deeper, deeper layer of what’s possible and what’s real for the conditions that people are moving in externally in the systems, but also within themselves.
And so, I just highlight that trust is sometimes something that can get lost in the feeling of urgency that we have. And it is urgent. There is urgency, right? We want young people to have all they need to be whole now. That’s real. And also, what does it mean to really look at our work with the long view of cultivating trust, knowing that that actually takes years? So, that’s one reflection that has really struck me over my experience in the fellowship. And another piece is, what does it mean to actually operate time wise outside of that sense of urgency, right? So, fellows are very busy people who have a lot of balls moving all the time, and a lot of asks that are being made all the time. And yet this work of transformation, ’cause that’s what we’re really talking about, is transforming systems.
What does it mean to be able to vibrate at a time frequency that is outside of that urgency, right? So, this is related to what do we need to cultivate trust? What do we need to actually trust that it’s okay to take more time, to actually take enough time to build relationships, to create ideas and approaches that make sense for the context that we’re in. So, that’s another piece that has really been with me throughout this fellowship. Another piece that I want to highlight is also about, what does it mean to hold space for the fellows, but for you who are watching to actually feel yourselves in this? There’s a lot of numbness that happens for the sake of surviving in these systems, for the sake of being competent, of looking good, or whatever it is for us.
So, in this fellowship, it feels like it’s really been an invitation to fellows to sink down and to be able to feel yourselves for real. Like, what’s really there for you in moving through these systems? What’s really there for you in terms of what capacity is? What’s there for you in terms of creative ideas in the space to be creative? And what’s there for you in terms of being real about the need for rest, or shifts in pacing? And of course, I have to mention the body. I have to mention the importance of allowing yourself to feel in your body. And something that struck me over the course of the year is just how risky that can feel at times, especially sometimes we would be having sessions while people were in their offices or whatever it was. And just what does it actually take to be able to feel safe, to feel your own body wherever you are, and especially in a work context, right?
And so that tension between knowing that feeling is part of how we’re gonna get to where we need to go. And also the tension of looking like a good leader, however we’ve internalized that around ideas of competence, and what that means, and decisiveness. And you never pause, because you gotta look like what you’re doing. And so, how do we begin to at least gently shake up that tension and create the possibility for more internal safety in the space of work. And the last thing I’ll say is just the importance of affinity space, and especially because so much of this work is happening cross racially, as it needs to. And also, what’s real is that systemic patterns, over hundreds of years, have left their mark. And that means that there’s work that needs to be done in shared identity spaces.
So, over the course of this fellowship, we did that through a lens of race. And one thing I would also offer as a possibility is class. Just what does it also mean to hold a lens that considers class as well as race? So, those are some of my reflections. And thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s been a year of learning. I hope fellows have learned and evolved in your work. And I know I have, so thank you for that.
Thank you so much, Terna. I love the messages of trust, affinity, and really feeling into your body. I really appreciate those reflections. So, Rachelle, would you like to share a few of your reflections?
Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard:
Good morning, good morning, everybody. As I reflected back on this year, I agree with Terna, it sounded like a year was a lot of time. But really if we’ve learned anything through our continuous pandemic or multiple pandemics, it’s that we need to take a step back and focus in on the things that are most important. And so, this work was a way for me to really pause for a moment as I worked with each of the fellows to take time at the beginning of the sessions, to not always delve right in, to have check-ins, to breathe because Terna’s a great coach. And so, to breathe and to figure out where I am in my body, and also to remind our fellows to do the exact same thing. That’s not something with which I was very familiar coming out of my own work, right? And so that was a great reminder for me.
A couple of learnings that I want to lift up. The necessity of alignment for particularly our county offices, right? We’re looking at often the 10,000 feet level at our county office. We are not providing direct services, right? And so, we’re far away from our students. But as soon as we mention equity, or racial equity work, or any of those things, it seems to be an additional, a plus, as opposed to being the root of the way in which we actually do all of our other work. And so, an alignment with all of the other things that we do in our roles from the county office, with our empty SS work, with our RJ work, with our SEO work, with our research and data work, with the TA that we provide to districts, all of the things that we do from the county office level, if we are not clear on our equity lens, it can often seem like an aside, but really it is the actual foundation for the work.
And so, in what ways can we help our other county offices to be able to shift so they see the equity work as foundational to all the other works through that alignment? And then the necessity of looking within our county offices to really do our own equity assessment. I think at the county office level that we’re so focused on providing services outward for our partnered school districts, that we often don’t take the time to look within our county offices and say, where are those areas of growth? Where are those areas of alignment? And what is the work that we need to do to model, to create the model for what the districts could look like? And so that means, for me, a lot of leadership development.
As Terna talked about trust, I was also thinking about fear. And so, the way in which folks often are fearful of, frankly, unpacking some of those pieces, doing some of the some of the work that needs to happen, so that we can look within our offices, county offices, and figure out what are the pieces that we need to move, we need to shift? How do we need to show up as leaders? What are some of the pieces that need to happen there? And so, to be on our racial equity journey means both leading and modeling, right? What could happen, what is possible at our school districts. And then as Terna said in terms of affinity, the need to support folks of color doing this work. I am extremely clear, and research would also indicate that there is a duality, particularly for folks of color who are being asked to lead this work, right?
It’s an insider, outsider duality that asks us to both lead the work while we are also experiencing the same microaggressions, the same attacks, the same oppression that we’re trying to dismantle for others. So, imagine trying to dismantle pieces that are being hurled at us simultaneously, the need for additional support. We often ask our folks of color to lead our equity work. And then we ask them to take on the double duty of having to experience it in their bodies and to experience it within their systems, but also then create the space for others to talk about it. And that’s hard double duty, right? And so, being able to create more spaces like this, through the EAF that we could have spaces of affinity, but also reminders of what it takes to remain in that very, very hard to move equity work within the exact same system that is oppressing you, right?
And so then finally just, I could not, just in the same way that we want to speak to others as they may be trying to fund additional opportunities, I need my white advocates to understand their role. And so, what was clear for me is the ways in which, even when we’re partnering cross racially, that white advocates understand the role of advocacy for racial equity within white frame spaces. Lots to talk about there. I’m not gonna go on a whole research piece there. But the need for that, it’s deeper than I’m just going to get out of your way. Sometimes that’s needed as well. But it’s also about, how are you actually supporting and creating the system so the work can happen. So those were my four. I considered myself extremely blessed to be a part of this work. Learned a lot myself. And I love it when I’m able to have growth, as I’m trying to create space for others. This is a wonderful opportunity. And I’m grateful.
Thank you so much, Rachelle, for the messages of modeling, of leadership, of recognizing and acknowledging the double duty that our colleagues of color are carrying, and really this notion of white advocacy and the essential nature of not just getting out of the way, but really being in the work and co-creating that. Super powerful. Thank you so much for your reflections. All right, Lauren, reflections on affinity spaces.
Yeah, I’m gonna be pretty brief. But as Christina mentioned, in April, we started doing racial affinity groups. And just like Terna and Rachelle discussed, some elements of undoing white supremacy require multiracial spaces for reflecting and organizing and acting. And other pieces of equity and anti-racism work are best done in affinity groups, right? There is work for white folks to do alone, and there are necessary spaces for BIPOC folks to address the impacts of white supremacy, and practice healing without white people and white feelings present. So, our affinity groups were broken into the people of the global majority and white. And we gathered in bimonthly peer sessions and some voluntary ongoing sessions. And I would just add that, you all as fellows in the feedback expressed that the racial affinity groups were really helpful for processing, for learning, and reflecting on race centered equity work.
I think while I’ll speak for some of the white folks, I think there was initially some hesitancy and skepticism. And so, I would just say, for everybody, we’re really grateful for y’all’s participation. Sometimes those spaces are really easy to jump into and sometimes they’re not for everyone. So, thank you for your participation. And a huge thank you to the coaches and the TAs for their facilitation of what we call these brave spaces.
Thanks, Lauren. I think the theme that seems like it came out of that was it seemed like our people of the global majority had spaces to connect and heal, and white spaces had an opportunity to work through their fear and discomfort in a place that’s not harming people of the global majority. So, thank you so much for co-leading, co-facilitating that. All right, I’m gonna turn over to Jenny, and then we’re gonna get moving.
Great, thank you. So, we’re gonna switch gears here a little bit. In addition to the professional learning sessions that were open to all staff in California County Offices of Education in the peer sessions, where fellows really worked closely with each other, both of which Christina talked about earlier, each county office of education pair that was participating in the Equity Accelerator fellowship met monthly with their equity coaches to identify opportunities for personal, professional, and agency reflection and growth, which you just heard about also from Terna and Rachelle. From the beginning, there really was an intentional focus on racial equity, which some of the fellows and some of their colleagues have been doing for years, and some were really just starting out with that focus.
And all of that was happening in a year of incredible challenge, change, loss, and uncertainty. That, really, is what makes this group of fellows so special, and why we’re here today to learn from their experiences and their reflections on their journeys. So, from here, each of the county offices of education that have been part of the fellowship are gonna share their successes, challenges, and hopes for the future of equity in their county and beyond. We’re gonna start with Placer County Office of Education. And Jennifer Hicks and Troy Tickle.
Awesome, thank you. And Troy’s not able to be here with us today, so you get myself. So, go ahead and go to the first slide. So, the project that we focused on for our work was our equity, diversity and inclusion team, or as we call it, our EDIT group. Next slide. So, we started EDIT a little over a year ago. And we were really trying to merge a couple of ideas, or I guess foundational ideas that were grounded in our work at Placer County Office of Education. So first, we have something called the PCOE Promise. And so, essentially the PCOE Promise is our promise to our employees, and then our employees promise to us as an organization. And so, what are the things that we will do to have a positive growth-minded organization? So, as we were moving into a space as a county office where we were seeing things like the murder of George Floyd and some prominent things that happened in our environment, we were experiencing a lot of tension.
If you’re familiar with Placer County, we’re a county in Northern California, semi-rural, suburban, and very conservative county. And so, we saw that there was a need for us as an organization to really think more deeply about what is our position on equity and how are we supporting equity initiatives across the county. So, through that, we decided to put together our EDIT team, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Team, and focus on three different areas. First, what is our work in support for the districts that we serve. Second, how are we promoting equity as an organization, and what does that look like internally for us as an employer? And then third, what does it look like for our support of the students that we serve both through our special education, alternative education, and early learning program?
So, as we developed this idea of EDIT, we wanted to do three things. One, really connect to our culture survey. So, we do a yearly culture survey to identify the culture as an organization. We wanted to make sure that the work we were doing was really impacting experiences, but also outcomes. So much of the equity work I feel like we’ve done in the past has really been about opportunity, not about outcome. And then the third foundation was to use improvement science as our approach to this work. So, we are deeply seeded in improvement science as an organization, as many county offices are. And so we wanted to make sure that we were using that and connecting to that as our main way to approach the work. Next slide. So, this is the purpose of our EDIT committee. And you’ll see a little draft stamp there.
We actually have been very purposeful with our EDIT team to make sure that we are co-developing the purpose of our work. So, our EDIT team includes, right now we have about 35 members from about seven different departments within our organization. And we represent a wide variety folks from human resources to educational services to prevention support services. So, great variety and type of department, but we also have variety in roles. So, we have certificated staff, we have classified staff, we have administrators. So, there’s a lot of diversity. So, our hope is that we will be able to co-develop a purpose together. And we’ve been working on that for the last couple of months, and this is our current draft. So, essentially, our purpose is to support PCOE’s goal of embedding an equitable, diverse, and cultural lens throughout the organization, the districts that we support, and the students and families we serve.
So, you can see those three pillars are focus areas that I talked about before. This will be accomplished through the development, implementation of equitable and inclusive practices, policies, and procedures, promoting diversity, and empowering the authenticity of individuals in recognizing and valuing individual strengths in order to establish an inclusive culture and climate. So, as I said, it’s still draft, we’re still tweaking it, we’re hoping to have a final version in the next month or so. Next slide. So, just a little snapshot of our journey. We began meeting just over a year ago in October, and we have continued to meet through now. We spent a lot of time really establishing what our norms were and our ways of dialoging together. We used some of the Margaret Wheatley work that we looked at actually through the fellow’s work and used that as our base.
And just really took a lot of time to understand that and make sure that we had that great foundation, because we were bringing such diverse experiences together in a way that we hadn’t done so before. We looked at those three focus areas, and we chose one to begin with. And the one that we chose to begin with was PCOE as an organization, so looking at our internal practices as an organization. And then we brought a lot of the learning from the equity fellows work back to our EDIT team. So, we took pieces of the professional development that we experienced through this work and chunked it out and actually provided it, engaged with EDIT, around some of the same topics and in pieces of learning. We did some really deep data analysis. So, because we were starting on PCOE as an organization, we started looking at our staffing and the diversity or lack of diversity in our staffing.
So, we pulled things like, specifically looking at race and ethnicity of our staff members, both through hiring and then also through promotion practices, so looking at who tends to get promoted into management. And then as I mentioned, we used improvement science. We did a root cause analysis around our hiring practices. We worked on that purpose. And then we decided in August to expand our team once we had a year under our belt. So we hosted a meet and greet, and we added 10 new members to our team, because they had heard about the work going on. Next slide. So successes and challenges. So, one of the things we did at the end of last year was we surveyed our EDIT members, which at that point were, I think, 21, 22 members. And just asked them a few questions about our work for the year.
And so, one of the things that we saw as a success was that 85% had shared some of the learning or resources we had engaged with in our EDIT meetings with their own departments. And so, part of our vision was really, if you think about an octopus and the tentacles of an octopus, if we were doing this learning as a hub, our hope was that they would then take it out into their own departments and do it at staff meetings, so that it would start to spread through. So, seeing that 85% were doing that was really encouraging. And then the second one was really a surprise to us. 77% felt that EDIT was having an impact on our organization. And quite honestly, after a year of doing this work, I was surprised, I was like, oh, my gosh, we’re having an impact. It’s such slow work, so it was very encouraging to see that.
And then related to that, I think our biggest challenge is patience, both our patience as the facilitators of the work, but also the members of the work. You wanna see outcomes changing, you wanna see impact right away, and sometimes it’s frustrating how slow the work needs to go to really be deep and authentic. Next slide. And that’s the same idea. We keep showing the slide over and over, both to EDIT and to our entire organization when we’re sharing out our work. And this is a marathon, this isn’t a sprint. We’re committed to this work for the long haul. It’s not a one or a two-year project. It’s a forever project. So, it’s just a good constant reminder. Next slide. So, where are we going next? So, we are continuing to meet once a month. We are purposefully asking at the end of each meeting, we have a standing agenda item basically asking, how are you going to share this information with somebody else, or with your department?
And so, we actually make commitments to what that will look like. Right now, we’re actually in the process of developing change ideas. So, we’ve gone through our improvement science process, we’ve developed a driver diagram, we’ve selected one high-leverage driver, which is recruitment. And so, we’re actually in the process of developing change ideas around recruitment. So, the hope is that that will impact our hiring practices and create a more diverse staffing pool. We’re trying to share other equity learning opportunities with employees, not just folks that are in the EDIT group, sharing professional development opportunities that are offered around the state. We’re getting ready to start a book club that will include folks not just in the EDIT. So, trying to find some of those low hanging fruits that we can spread throughout the whole organization.
And then I think probably the most important thing that we’re being super intentional about is ensuring that we have those feedback loops between EDIT, between our cabinet, and then our senior leadership. So, the activities that we engage in EDIT, we’re also engaging with our cabinet. So for example, our first EDIT meeting of this year, we did a hopes and fears activities. So, just what are your hopes for our work in EDIT as an organization, and what are your fears? We replicated that exact same activity, and Troy and I facilitated it with our cabinet. So, our superintendent, our highest leadership in our county office. And it’s just been interesting to see what has been the same and what’s different. And I think that was our last slide.
Thanks so much, Jen. We’re excited about the work that you all are doing and continuing to do in Placer County. And with that, we’re gonna move on to Channa Cook-Harvey and Kristin Wright, from Sacramento County Office of Education.
Great, thanks, Jenny. Good morning, everybody. Yeah, so we have a lot to share. This has definitely been a fascinating journey. I think I probably speak for most of us here that this process has been really wonderful in terms of supporting our journey to expanding DEI efforts at Sacramento County Office of Education. You can go to the next slide. Our tagline is actually really important, moving at the speed of trust. And that is pretty indicative of our starting point and our through line in this work over the past year and looking ahead as well. Kristin and I were new to SCOE in July of 2020. So, we were brand new to the organization and we were tasked with leading the agency’s DEI work. And we knew pretty soon that we needed to build relationships and get to know people and have a sense of where folks were at.
And we really quickly realized too, that people were coming at this work from a variety of different starting places. We called it a continuum of readiness. And we landed on a strategy around how to approach and build this workout based on what we learned from folks in that first year. So, we can go to the next slide. We thought of the 2020-21 school year as our phase one where we did a lot of consciousness raising with SCOE leadership, including our board, our cabinet, and our expanded leadership team, which is about 140 people in our organization. SCOE is close to a little over 600 employees. And you can imagine that as new people who started in this role in the middle of COVID, where we were mostly virtual, it was a lot to get our arms around. And we needed to start at the leadership level, but also needed to be basing our strategy and our approach based on what folks were telling us.
So, we did a really comprehensive suite of focus groups with students, not only in our SCOE programs and schools, but also across the organization, or across the county. So, we met with students from other schools and districts in the county. We did also employee focus groups. So we asked management, who would be willing to raise their hand and let us talk to your staff, and get a sense of what some of this, where are the pain points, where are the bright spots, and where can we learn from stuff that’s already happening and build that into our efforts, but also where might there be some gaps. And then we also did a SCOE wide staff survey. And we got a little over half of the employees to participate. It was close to 300 folks completed that survey, which gave us a lot of really rich data. I think practically everybody wrote comments in each of the sections.
So, we had a lot of qualitative data as well as a good sense of more a Likert scale on some of our questions. So, that was really rich and helped provide the phase two goals for this year. So, in 2021, we’re really continuing to build skill and confidence SCOE wide. So, we’re ramping up our efforts with our leadership board and cabinet and going deeper, building on what we started last year, but then expanding opportunities for professional learning and professional development for all of SCOE. So, everything that we offered to leadership, we’re now offering to everybody, and it’s kind of an anyone interested. And so we’re thinking forward about, okay, how then do we build this in as a mandatory, and what might that look like? We also are leaning heavily on our, what we call our Design Team.
So similar to, I think Jennifer at her county office, the EDIT team, we call it our Design Team, our steering committee that’s really giving us a temperature check as go along the way to think about, what are people saying and feeling, what do you think about this? Here’s some language, here’s some vision, let’s chew on this, let’s rework this, what’s our equity statement as an organization, and continuing to build those facilitative leadership skills for our management I think is incredibly important, right? So, getting folks unstuck from, oh, no, this makes me nervous. I’m not sure how to do this. How do I navigate the complexity of this conversation? So, providing tools and resources and safe spaces for folks to practice has been a real priority for us.
And of course, as we start to think about expanding our team of staff at SCOE who are collaborating with us on this work, we’re thinking about how then do we translate this support to our LEAs across the county. And many of those LEAs actually are in some ways further ahead of us as organizations in terms of their equity work, where they’ve got whole departments and teams, and how can we bring folks together to learn and cross pollinate. So, I’m gonna turn it over to Kristin to wrap up our presentation today.
Thanks, Channa, we can go to the next slide. So, we believe we have had some great successes. Like everyone else, we will continue to have challenges. Some of our successes are really around a high level of commitment across the organization. DEI’s become regular parts of our cabinet meetings and all of our leadership team meetings. And so that’s a big step forward for SCOE. Really creating that vision statement was a success. As you know, wordsmithing, vision statements, and our board is chewing on a SCOE mission and vision statement as well, and it takes a lot of time and people have a lot of feelings about it. Our steering committee and Design Team, we have a great crew, but I think what we’re thinking about moving forward is how do we best utilize their time?
We’re doing a kind of, how do we build their own capacity while we make sure to get their thoughts, ideas, and opinions so they’re feeling like they’re doing that work with some purpose, and a big success was our partnerships that we delved into this year with the National Equity Project, Lisa Lasky we’re working with, and Changing Perspectives, which is focused on disability and equity, and the Human Rights Campaign, which is focused on LGBTQ plus issues of equity. And so, as we move forward, we are still, like many of, I think all of us, trying to de-silo the DEI work, that it doesn’t live alone like, it’s not like, okay, we’re doing DEI, Kristin and Channa take it away. But rather that we co-own that DEI work across the organization and that it becomes part of our work and it’s not a separate thing that, or a treatment that we’re giving to any person or department.
We do, I think, we’re seeing some success. Initially, we have three departments that have asked for coaching. So, we have coaches that are assigned to those departments to really help them along the way so that Channa and I can spread and scale. It’s not just us trying to work with every individual department. And like she said, everyone’s at a different place and space. We’ve also been teaching a CSLA class with leaders around equity. And that has been a great experience also just really in hearing what’s going on in the field to be able to tie those real experiences in the trenches of what’s happening and support our principal and other leaders across districts. We’re definitely meeting the needs of employees with a highly varied knowledge base.
I did some interviews yesterday with some SCOE people who were applying, and one of the questions on there is talk to us about what DEI means to you. And it was clear that we really need to do some very ongoing, foundational knowledge building that doesn’t ever stop. And so, I think some of the questions is what can we build into HR and the onboarding process for employees so that they understand what SCOE is all about and that this is a part of our work, and that we give everyone that sense before, so that they’re not trying to sense through osmosis where we stand. So, looking forward to the next year of doing deeper work and getting ready to onboard a DEI coordinator to help us organize the work, which will be great in helping to work with our districts.
I guess for our final word, we reflected on our own personal journeys, and I’ll let Channa pipe in in a minute about hers. For me, it’s been a great journey, and I have to give a shout out to Jenny and Terna for their patience and deep support as I was definitely on a journey. And we didn’t mention it before, but I am proud of the fact that we have started the BIPOC affinity group at SCOE, and Channa can talk about that a little bit, and that we’ll be starting the white affinity group in the spring, both with facilitation by outside facilitators. And we look forward to getting more into supporting our districts and schools and working with them around the community of practice, and also our cross-county equity work that we can all band together so we’re not just all replicating and duplicating trainings, but we can really leverage all of our collective will and momentum towards making a real difference around promoting diversity, equity, inclusion across our county offices, Channa.
Yeah, I think you really covered, I think here in my final key learning was really about how to work and collaborate with colleagues using patience and love especially when we’re coming at some of these topics from really different starting places and really leaning on NEP’s guidance around making it an invitation, which tends to lower people’s stress level and more willingness to hear and be reflective. And so, we’re finding some really great success using that frame, as opposed to let me tell you why you need to know this thing. And I think just to close it out, we can go to the next slide. But just in the end of the day remembering that this is really what it’s all about, and this is a picture of my boys on the left and Kristin.
And these are my daughters on the right, and they’re the ones that keep it real.
Yeah, so that’s us, thank you.
Thank you both so much. It’s been a pleasure seeing you all and all the work that you’re doing and thank you for sharing today. We’re gonna keep on moving here and head over to San Diego with the San Diego County Office of Education. The fellows were Barbara Higgins and Felicia Singleton.
Good morning, fellows and friends. Again, I’m Felicia Singleton, I’m the Director of System of Supports, and I will be sharing our journey with you today. We’re unique because we are not seen as the necessarily the equity department or the equity leaders in our organization. So, we had an opportunity to take a different stance as fellows in the EAF Program. So next slide, please. If you wanna go fast, go alone, if you wanna go far go together. And that was important because we know that when there’s a department or a team, it’s often communicated or maybe verbally, or non-verbally that those are the folks who do the equity work. And it’s just really, really a challenge to get that work rooted and cultivated when it’s relegated to the equity team.
And if we wanna make it stick, if we want that to become the culture and the way of life, we have to do things together. So, this is just a quote that I’d like to use because we really need to break down those silos, and that’s something that we really were hard to do during this year. Next slide. So, our journey again, Barbara and I aren’t seen as the equity team. In fact, we’re a different division, we’re in Student Services and Programs. But the racism, the racial reckoning, the pandemic, the collision of those together was really what brought us to this work as far as the EAF. And we were really honored to be able to be asked to be a part of this EAF, because it couldn’t have come at a better time. It allowed me, I’m gonna speak for myself, Barbara’s not able to make it, but it allowed me to position myself as a learner.
As time was going on, we were asked for resources and supports because we are in service to our districts. But then this EAF really filled my cup. It allowed me to step back and learn and benefit from an amazing coach and really take advantage of those affinity groups so that I could be a better team member within my organization. So, really the collision of those two really is what started our journey with the focus on the equity work. And it’s also important for me to note as a black woman, sometimes the perception is that, oh, you get it already, but that’s not always the case. It’s one thing to live it, it’s another thing to talk about it, and it’s certainly a thing to present and coach and build capacity around equity when you are from that racially marginalized group. So, this really strengthened my equity stance and my beliefs and my values, and it allowed me to name them. Next slide, please.
So, our glows and grows. Some of the things that we’re really proud of is the fact we were able to leverage some of the work that we’d already done in SDCOE. Again, I come from a county that has a really robust equity plan. It’s in our county’s mission statement, vision. Our superintendent is very committed to the equity work. We have an equity department. So, it was difficult for me to figure out like, how do I insert my work and myself in the EAF, and how do I make an impact at my county office? So, I was able to really leverage the work that we were doing around student voice. So really proud of that work. I’m super proud that we were able to connect it to the work that was happening in EAF. I’m also proud of the fact that we were able to take Liberatory Design and embed it in some of the work that we were already doing with our districts, specifically around social emotional learning and transformative SEL.
Our opportunity for growth is to continue to message to my colleagues and teammates at SDCOE that equity is the responsibility of everyone in our organization. Also, I think, I don’t know which county office said it, but really taking the time to do our own personal work. So, another strength in our county office is we’ve gone through equity 1.0 as employees with an outside partner, and we’re gearing up for equity 2.0. And sometimes as educators, especially in departments that aren’t attached to instruction or academics, they feel like, well, I don’t have to do that work, but I’m really, really proud of the fact that my county office has lifted this up and has seen the value in it and is investing in that. But again, that opportunity for growth is connecting it back to the work that we do every day and saying that this is, again, the responsibility of everyone in our organization. Next slide please.
So, equity work is justice work, and that’s something that my coach, Rachelle, very early on reminded us and told us and coached us on that if we’re not talking about race specifically, then we’re really not touching on equity. We have to start there. And I know we’ve all seen a gazillion slides on the babies looking over the fence and riding the bicycles and every iteration of this inequality, equality, equity. But I like this slide because it specifically talks about justice. And as Rachelle shared earlier, it looks at the system. It’s taking a look at the system as a deficit versus the children. So, we can get kids ladders and books and lower the fence. But if our system is still perpetrating in these inequitable systems and habits and policies and procedures, we’re still going to be basically saying that you don’t matter, right?
But when we look at the system and equity is driving that system, then we start to see the shift and then we start to see that change. So, equity work is justice work, and that’s something that we’ve learned here in the EAF. Next slide, please. And in our final slide, I was really trying to stick to those five minutes. Equity is a shared responsibility, and I chose this, or we chose this image because this is an image of the Maasai tribe. And those of you who don’t know, the Maasai tribe in Africa, their traditional greeting in their language is pronounced, Kasserian Ingera, but in English it says, and how are the children? So, they don’t ask, how are you, which we do in our culture, but they really say, they ask each other in passing, the men, the women, those with children, those without children, and how are the children.
And really what they’re saying is, we believe that the monitoring of the wellbeing of our children is the best way to determine the future health and prosperity of our whole society. So, I felt like that was the best image to capture what our commitment is moving forward in SDCOE. This is not the equity team’s responsibility but as a director of system of supports, I work with all those acronyms that are very confusing sometimes, MTSS, PBIS, Restorative Justice practices, SEL. So, moving forward, it is my responsibility and obligation to continue to anchor all of that work in equity so then when I work with my district partners, my charters, they don’t feel like, okay, we’re coming here to get MTSS, so we got to go over to the equity department to get that equity. That shouldn’t be.
And one thing that I’ve learned from EAF is that when we meet with our groups and we do that work, equity again is the anchor, it’s the foundation. And once we move from that lens, then we’re able to see improvements for our students and families that we serve. And this last slide, because we did so much around student voice, I thought it would be helpful to offer some resources. This is the project, if you will, that came from the year in EAF, is really elevating that student voice as a way to garner feedback from a stakeholder that’s often forgotten about. So, at SDCOE, we did a bunch of panels on student voice, four or five different racially marginalized groups, as well as LGTQIA students and students with disabilities.
And then there’s some research here on the importance of student voice and when it is authentic versus when it is used as a decoration, and then also student voice in policy making. So, those are just some resources that I hope you find useful, and that’s what we have for you today.
Thank you so much. It’s great to see all the work that happens in San Diego and these resources are fantastic, and we’ll make sure that everyone has access to them. So, thank you. Coming up here, we have Santa Clara County Office of Education and the fellows there were Anisha Munchi and Ma Bernadette Andres-Salgarino.
Hello everybody. It’s such a pleasure to be here and just listen to everybody that’s gone ahead of me and look at the great work that’s happening at all our Santa Clara County, all the offices, the county offices. So, my name is Anisha Munchi, I’m the Associate Superintendent of Professional Learning and Instructional Support Division. And my colleague, Ma Bernadette is not able to join us today. So, I will go through this presentation by myself knowing that the two of us have had several conversations about our coaching sessions and the impact we have. Next slide, please. So, speaking of impact, I came to the professional learning division in July of 2020, and right off the bat, the first conversation we started having is, what is our impact? We talk about equity work but what really is our impact?
And earlier on, I think it was mentioned that as county offices, the hard thing is we don’t get scores to indicate how we are doing our work or what that looks like. So, we have surveys for all our professional development, all the workshops, all the work that we do with districts, the coaching, but really what is our impact. So, it started with that conversation. And through that conversation, we realized is it’s hard to measure our impact because in the Professional Learning Division, our scope of work is so broad. So, we have iSTEAM, we have CTE, we have ELA, ELD, we have history, social science, we have all the content areas, but in addition to that, we have an educator program where we do special ed and administrative credentials through those programs, we have PBIS.
So, the work was so broad. It was really hard to say, how do we get to the core of this? In addition, we recently added a youth health and wellness team. So, that’s how the conversation came about is, what is the collective meaning of our work? We talk about equity work, but what does it really look like? Next slide, please. With the scope of our work being so broad, one of the things that we were anchored with is our core principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and partnership. Like many county offices, we, every work plan that we develop or any work that we do, we always try to match it or align it with our mission and vision and our goals, and that led to this conversation of how do we measure the impact and how do we make sure that we are doing all our work with equity, diversity, inclusion, and partnership at the forefront. Next slide, please.
So, in our division, when we started this work and started having this conversation, we had over 60 employees ranging from our managers to our leadership team, our admin team, and everybody said, my work looks very different, so I don’t know how to measure the impact. Through a consensus workshop that took over five hours and lots of discussions, we came about with this document, which really captured the essence of our work. This was input from every single employee in our division, and it took several hours. And what we realized through those conversations is that the equity work was at the forefront. It looked different, but it was important to find some common definition and some common understanding of what equity in our work looked like.
And what you see here is a document, it’s a lot of words, so I’m not going to read through each one. But what we realized is that the team, everybody wanted equity to be at the forefront, which is why the column that you see in the left corner, the co-creating equitable access for equitable outcomes, and we actually defined what those would look like, but then the other thing that the team wanted is the equity to be woven in across as well. So, when you look at the themes at the top, the ones in blue, those were the main themes that came out through this consensus workshop. And then what you see at the bottom is just a little bit more going in depth into, what does that mean? What does it look like? And again, what we realized is that the equity work was at the forefront, but we also identified how it would be woven in through all the work that we did. Next slide, please.
Once we came up with the document that you just saw, as you notice there are a lot of words, and everybody said, okay, what do we do with this? Because we create work plans in our office at the beginning of the year, every team develops its own work plan, which is aligned with the goals of the office. And our office has also been engaged in the equity work. We have 1600 employees so what we are doing is something very similar to what some of you have described where it’s not one person’s job, it’s not one person’s role, but how do you start with maybe the cabinet or leadership team, and then how do we make sure that every team, when they meet, they are having those conversations and there is space that’s being created to talk about equitable outcomes, and what does equity look like in their work?
Our teams then dug in deeper and came up with this. And I wish Ma Bernadette had been here to talk about this, because this was really, she’s masterful at explaining this slide because this is centered around the work that our math team does. Through deeper conversations, we came out with a statement which really picked on the main themes, and what you see the spokes in the middle, the wheels that are turning, that’s our work, it’s student centered. We are talking about the whole child. We are talking about what type of learning environment are we creating for our students? What does inclusion look like not just within our organization and division, but also in the classrooms for educators that we work with. What does equity work look like in a classroom or in our workshops or communities of practice, and then social justice once again.
Like it was mentioned before, our coach talked to us throughout this, Felicia, I think you mentioned it, that we were always talking about social justice and race and being at the forefront of this work. If we don’t address those issues and create safe spaces to talk, which sometimes are uncomfortable, we will not be able to do this work well. So, the statement that we came up with is we, the Professional Learning and Instructional Supportive Division, through thoughtful and consistent use of data for systemic change, advocate for social justice and racial equity by co-creating equitable access for equitable outcomes for students. And by empowering social capital with a shared vision, we will be fostering collaborative and inclusive community, advocating for inclusive student-centered learning environments, building capacity for student-centered instruction, and supporting the whole child through strategic partnerships.
Especially in this last year, we talked a lot about the whole child. Just going through the COVID experience and seeing the inequities in our systems, we realized that unless we also honed on the SEL, the wellbeing of our children, we were not going to have the academic outcomes that we are looking for. Next slide, please. Talking about the success. The success wasn’t… Given the size of our team and the broad scope of our work, we were able to have a collective consensus that defined the we and the why and the what and how of our division, who are we, what is the work that we do, how is equity reflected in all of our work? So that was a huge success, that coming to some common understanding. And the challenge is, as I just shared with you, we just added youth health and wellness department to professional learning.
In the last month and a half, we have onboarded 30 employees in one month. And so, the challenge is that as we grow as a team and as a division, how do we socialize and onboard our new team members, and also make sure that in their voices are somewhere captured in this work that we have done. How do they make sense of it, and how do they also have an opportunity to include their voices in what their work looks like? So, the youth wellness team that I’m talking about, this is just very exciting work we have started as we will be opening 12 wellness centers in our county. And those of you that know Santa Clara County, we have 31 districts that we serve. And those 31 districts are very unique. We have some very affluent districts, and then we have some that are struggling.
We have a number of students who come from communities that are unserved or underserved. So, how do we then apply that equity lens? And the wellness centers this year, we’re excited with that work and that’s the team that we’ve added on. So, our goal is to expand that work, but then also, how do we onboard these new team members who are working directly with students? We have used advocacy advisory groups at all of the wellness centers. How are those voices captured, the voices of our youths? Next slide, please. The key learning for us, just like for all of you, is how do we leverage the strength of every individual so that they can lead and coach with an equity focus. And we did that through the consensus workshop. It was important for us to capture every single voice, no matter what the role of the team member was within the division.
We are also a strengths-based organization, and we lead a lot of our work through that, through the Gallup Strengths work. So, every time we meet as a team, that is also at the forefront because we wanna make sure that everybody’s strength is captured as well. Looking ahead is the integration, alignment, application, reflection of our learning this year, as we continue to serve our school districts, our youth and the families in those districts. And that ends our presentation.
Thank you so much, Anisha, for representing all the stuff that you all are doing in Santa Clara County. And with that, we’re gonna move on to Sonoma County Office of Education with Anthony King and Kelly Matteri.
All right, good morning, everybody. I’m gonna go ahead and get us started here, and it’s been fascinating to listen to, first the coaches’ reflections, Terna and Rachelle, and then also a lot of presentations here. I’ve been hearing similar threads, or themes rather, that you’ll see come up in our presentation as well. So start with that. And next slide, please. All right, so the headline here, one of the things that we, Kelly and I wrestled with in the beginning was, how do we fit this work of equity, of making equity a focus within our county office and then within our county? What does that look like? I’m new to the state, and I’m new to the county office as of last July 2020. And so, I didn’t wanna jump in and say, improve in science and then race. How do you do that? What does that look like?
And so, what we decided to do was think about what work has already been going on, or at least touted from the county office perspective on moving the work forward. And this gets to what I think what Rachelle said earlier, this alignment, what is already going on and we can grab hold to? And with the headline here, as you can see, is following through on the promises of promoting equity and listening to our community. So, if you’ll move to the next slide, please. And what that looks like is, in 2020, the county office hosted a series of different panels for student voices. And you can see some of the, this is the publication that came out of that. And what it said was, here are what students are experiencing, and here is what districts and LEAs can do about it. But what does that leave to county office? How do we support that work in making sure that these LEAs can actually move that work forward and make good on the promises of…
We listened to your students in your community, now here’s what we’re gonna do. But before we could even get into that, again, me being new to the county office as a black man moving to Sonoma County, I had to build some trust. I did not know who my allies were. People talk and talk about, we are here for equity, we’re here for justice, and that sounds great, but then you don’t oftentimes see action. And so, for me, I had to, working with Kelly and then us doing distance learning, and her and I not having really a direct link in the work of the day-to-day county office, it was important for us to start to build trust. And once we started building that trust, I’ll share that an anecdote that really helped me, in particular, build trust and look at Kelly, like, all right, I might work with you.
It was during a coaching call. I had discovered the game culture tags. And if you’re not familiar with that game, I won’t spend time talking about it. But she knew a lot of those letters. This a game of letters, and she knew a lot of those sayings that I’m like, “Huh, okay, you might know what, you might know. “I might work with you.” And so from that, it led to having some very frank conversations about how do we do this work, in particular, talk about race in a county where largely it’s Latinx and white, very small black population. I know oftentimes when the word racist is share, the first thing that pops up is the dichotomy of black and white.
And so, I could hear people say, well, why is race even important to talk about? We don’t really have a lot of that going on to have that kind of racism. So, we wanted to do was just, again, build on the COE’s current journey and think about the barriers of situated equity, in particular race, in the forefront. And there have efforts on having those conversations about equity and what it means within our department. I’m not even talking about in the whole county office, within the educational support services office. There seemed to be what I’ve, we call these false starts. And so, what we decided to do was, let’s just get that coalition of willing with the help of Rachelle. Let’s just get that coalition of willing. Let’s start somewhere, let’s make this a voluntary start. Help have a clear purpose for the group, build that trust, have frank conversations, and then shift those mindsets, and provide people with the tools they can take out into the field as we try to make good on the promise of listening to the community. And I will pause there and it over to Kelly to share.
Thank you, Anthony. If you wanna click to our next slide. So, I just wanna build a little bit on what Anthony said, and then I’ll, through building on that, address this slide about celebrating our successes and acknowledging our challenges. I think it’s really important, as Anthony said, to acknowledge the fact that in Sonoma County we are a largely Latinx and white population in our county, and that in our education system, that white educators predominate our educational system. And that’s a byproduct of so many of the systemic factors that we’ve discussed in this group, but it really creates a challenge as we are talking about equity and trying to work towards anti-racist practices. So, how do we really start to engage in that work in ways that show that as a largely white education leadership within our county, that we’re, A, open to broadening who we are in our demographics as educators and educational leaders.
And B, that we’re listening to our community and to our students. And one of the things we heard out of those student voices panels that Anthony referenced in some community panels as well is, yeah, it’s great you’re listening to us, but this will really only matter if you show us that you didn’t just listen. Because it’s even almost more insulting to listen to us and then do nothing. And so, Anthony and I went into this work, as he said, coming out of a fully distanced work environment and connecting with our peers, and saying, okay, well, how are we gonna get into this work? And I wanna acknowledge the real context of coming back in, in a still mid COVID range, right? So, we had schools who were in addition to coming back into starting a new school year, coming back into starting with COVID.
And so how do we say, okay, we heard you community, we heard you students, and we’re actually gonna take action. And so what we decided to do, which was our success was, how do we create this voluntary space for people within our department, who are actually really invested in making anti-racist changes, and give them space to connect, to nurture their bonds, and to grow and to learn, instead of trying to convince the folks who, not necessarily, I don’t feel, and Anthony feel free to jump in, I didn’t feel like that we had any specific resistance to doing anti-racist work, but rather folks who had doubts. We’ve talked about equity, we’ve talked about anti-racism, but it’s not really gone anywhere tangible. How do I decide to invest my time and energy in this at a time when time and energy are at a premium, right?
And so, we said, okay, let’s take, like Anthony said, the contingency of the willing and create that space. So, our challenge was, hey, we wanna bring others along, everybody’s busy, we’ve tried to do this before, nothing has changed. And really by saying like, hey guys, we’re gonna have this space. And here are some of our goals. We’re gonna look at what we recommended and see how has our work actually changed? What in your practice, coworker, colleague, has actually changed as a result of what we’ve heard from students and community members and family members? And we’ve really actually had some pretty great response. If you wanna click to the next slide. Some pretty great response from within our department of folks who are interested in joining in this work and doing this work.
We have a five-session arc of learning that we’re gonna go through and go on that journey together, that Anthony and I are gonna lead, that looks at providing knowledge about identity, in particular race, exploring and understanding historical references on race and how it’s shaped where we are now. So, yeah, we’re working in this context. And to some extent, we’ve arrived in this context as a result of many years of decisions made and the beliefs held by people who came before us, understanding that so that we can move forward, and use those tools and resources that will help us actively work towards promoting equity, right? So rather than just saying, in this passive sense, equity is at the core of what we do, and then it diffuses into, oh, if it’s everywhere, it’s nowhere in particular kind of feeling, which is something we’ve heard voiced from our colleagues, that we are able to point to specifically.
We are actively and explicitly working on equity. And we have these tools, and we have these resources, and we have a knowledge base, and we have peer and mutual accountability to do that. And I don’t know. I don’t have my timer going on our five minutes. So, no, I don’t wanna go too long. But one of my learnings and one of the things Anthony and I have talked about is, like he said, the real importance of connecting in a really authentic and trusting way with one another, there’s a certain vulnerability that it takes to be able to do this work well. And vulnerability requires trust. And, for me, as a white woman, connecting with a black man in a county that’s largely Latinx and white, and there’s a lot of segregation, I would say, still in our county that permeates nearly every facet of life.
How do we form a relationship that’s real and authentic and that we can trust each other enough to be able to give each other feedback around what’s working or what’s not working, and how we move forward? And so, it’s been a great journey, I will say, from my standpoint. I really enjoyed working with Anthony and working with Rachelle and with Lauren in support, to be able to, ourselves, build this base of trust with each other, that we can model and extend out to our small group in our office, and then from there, out into the work with our students, and communities, and educators,
Thank you both so much. And thanks for sharing both the work and how relationships and trust, going back to what our coaches shared in the beginning, but how that also is a huge part of the work and the foundation of the work. So, thank you very much. And now we’re going to move to Tulare County Office of Education and Javier Garcia.
All right, thanks everybody. I’m hearing a lot of things across everybody’s presentations that I can relate to very strongly. And I think that’s been one of the big strengths of this opportunity. So, shout out to all the other COE teams, WestEd, the coaches, Rachelle and Terna, all the work that we’ve had a chance to do together, because this is one layer of the communities in which we’re involved with that help, expand our own minds in terms of the work, but also commiserate sometimes because this work is absolutely glacial in the way it moves sometimes, way too slow. My title’s pretty simple. It’s just Equity in the Central Valley. If you wanna of move ahead. Central valley, like a lot of the other counties, is a conservative place politically. And that creates lots of various conditions.
We’ve got a lot of diversity, but racially, largely Hispanic Latinx. Started this journey actually a little bit before this, but when the Equity Accelerator started, Alicia was my co-conspirator in this journey. And a few months ago, she got snapped up by CDE to lead their multilingual education efforts. We’ve also been dealing with the specter of the pandemic, as many of you guys are. And that adds layers of challenges, particularly as we are coming back, or as schools have come back. There’s been this big effort to like, let’s get things back to normal, even though the pandemic really shone a light on inequities that existed, and created new inequities. But I would be remiss to say that it was just, Alicia and I, we’ve had a team that has been partnered with us on this journey. And I think that’s been a thing that has been super helpful for us.
Our deputy superintendent, when we started all of our wholesale focused equity efforts, built the structure around a design team. I’ve heard other folks use the same thing with another layer underneath that are our ambassadors who do some outreach to various different groups, I’ll touch on them a little bit more in a sec, as well as other various committees to get a conference going. And then the folks that lead our organization are also in kept informed. Part of our journey has involved developing these equity foundations. And those were built concurrently with our county pillars. We have these big things that every department is connecting to, that we’re a trusted partner committed to service, that we’re responsible stewards maximizing access and outcomes, and that we inspire grow and empower students and staff.
And so, the equity design team has looked at that. We have those pillars; we have some core values that go along with them as well. And we’re like, those sound great. But if we just roll those out, the system is already inequitably built. And so, if we just let resources and efforts flow along the current system, will they do so equitably? And our thinking is they won’t. And so, we’re actively, now that departments are being asked to connect their work to those pillars, to those values, we wanna make sure that equity is a part of that effort. But again, there has been a lot of community and bridge building in that. If we can go ahead and advance a little bit.
There’s been a ton of different efforts across the organization that have adopted or taken on various forms of equity work. And I think for me, the big shift has been that, because we’re a county office and because of the proximity in which we sit to sites and districts, oftentimes we think in terms of events and individual efforts. I would say that even before this particular effort started, there was a lot of individuals doing equity work, but it was on an individual basis. And there’s a lot of times where we say, all right, you are now in charge of equity. It’s one thing to name somebody an equity facilitator, or to say, we ran this workshop. And now I think we’re slowly shifting over to thinking of equity. Yes, those things are so important. But having equity be a lens that we look at everything with, and that it is something that everyone is connected to and responsible for.
And so, our network efforts have all thankfully adopted a very close, and it’s an operating principle for a lot of our equity efforts or our network efforts, their bodies of work. To give one example, our College Ready Network, which just launched a few months ago, they do investigations between convenings, our site teams. And in addition to just examining pieces of data that are being pulled up for them, they are actively talking to students. They’re conducting empathy interviews with students. And these things are always put together side by side, so we don’t lose the student voice in all of these efforts. I think recent events, students posting signs and discussing things, the kids want to be heard. And we need to be listening to them because we tend to just go off of assumptions that feel true but aren’t always.
But equity has really started to become our centering principle. The ambassadors that we engage with on a somewhat regular basis help foster that along. Really, our design team meets monthly, our ambassadors meet bimonthly, and that just gives us a chance to invest in one another, build community, have conversations, and just build the bonds that can weather some of the challenges. Because one thing that we feel is that the system doesn’t always wanna be changed. And it shows up in the forms of individuals don’t like being uncomfortable, and some of these things can be uncomfortable. And so, by investing in one another, by hearing a little bit about each other, breaking bread with one another, we think that we can weather those challenges and those uncomfortable conversations, even if folks are coming at it from a completely different point of view.
But we’re trying to turn this into something that’s worked on collectively, not just on an individual basis. And people are starting to understand more and more just the various complexity of it. One of our principles is just understanding that diversity and inclusion is incredibly important. And to quote the late great Lee Smith, he shares in a session that I saw him do one time that, it’s not what you know that hurts you, it’s what you think you know that just ain’t so. And it is incredibly important for everyone in the organization to hear from other folks in the organization, other folks that aren’t present in the organization, our community members, because we don’t know what they know, and they might not know what we know. But it’s gonna take hearing from one another to really find out where each of our individual blind spots are.
But again, a little thing about student voice, our challenge is just progress sometimes feels slow and punctuated. You’ll feel like, oh, we made a breakthrough, and then come back and feel like, oh, and we took two steps in the time. I think people really agree with equity and want to see change. But again, if the change comes too close to what I do on a daily basis, efforts can stall. And the other thing is folks that are championing the work, they’re championing a lot of other things at the same time. I would imagine that it is probably true for everybody here on this call. This isn’t the only hat you wear. This is just the one that was added to the other things that you do. And so, yeah, sustaining the focus and making sure that it permeates through the systems is difficult.
If we can advance. And to me, that’s the big key learning that equity work has to be undertaken by a community and communities, like this is a community of COE folks and other partners that are involved in the work together. And we each turn around and work within our local communities, which in turn work with their communities as well. The work isn’t always evenly distributed. It tends to fall on specific people’s shoulders oftentimes. And so how do we spread that out? And I’ve seen some heartening things. Just yesterday, we had pulled up some data. And a colleague of mine, I mean, it wasn’t necessarily a space where we were talking about this particular issue. We were talking about a very technical thing, like CALPADS data. And he was just remarking at the fact that, all right, we know what the racial breakdown is of our county, but why is it that the numbers tilt a certain way at our poor community schools and tilt a completely different way at our university prep high school, which is a great question.
And so, that’s something that’s now, how do we make this a little bit more visible to the folks that steer things, just to think about collectively as a group. Looking ahead, we’re gonna continue to engage these department efforts to think critically about their goals. Every department throughout the organization is writing goals that are supposed to adhere to these pillars and their core values, and we want to make sure that equity is a focus. There is a very tempting thing when people are designing measures to design measures that look nice, that look good, that make us look good. And so, we’re hoping that we land a little bit closer to something that tells the truth about us and highlights potential areas of growth and greater equity.
And so, we have some questions that we hope folks will be posing in the time to come. So, yeah, we wanna make sure that our network efforts continue to center equity in their work, that our departments make sure that their departmental goals strive for equity. And I think ultimately understanding, same team, we are all working on something together. That we may not all always agree, but if we’re looking for certain types of outcomes, it’s gonna take everybody sharing in the effort.
Thanks so much, Javier. I love that sentiment that we’re all on the same team. Now, we’re gonna hear from Lisa, and Nick at Del Norte County Office of Education.
Hey, this is Del Norte County Office of Education sharing with you our Equity Accelerator fellowship experience.
So, the headline, the whole child education with equitable learning outcomes can only be achieved when students and families have the opportunity to provide input, and our community has the information and understanding of how to navigate our system.
In Del Norte County, our strength is our diversity, but it’s also our challenge. We value diversity, equity, inclusion, support, and engagement. However, our results haven’t always reflected our commitment, passion, and desire are for student success, especially for culturally diverse students.
Our journey, it’s a small town, rural. It may seem simple, but it’s complex. We have inner city statistics. BHC selected us as the only rural community for a reason. We have high opioid abuse, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, and criminal arrests per capita. Education service delivery model historically has been based on equal, not equity. And so, our focus of making sure everyone gets the same and everything is fair is not, as we’ve moved forward, the right approach. Individual services are hard to implement that way. Disparity found amongst certain student subgroups were students with disabilities, native American students, and socioeconomically disadvantaged.
So, our challenge was realizing, not only was our system not working, but that we would have to disassemble and reassemble it in order to fix it. We started with systems alignment and trying to get all the resources moving in the same direction towards equitable student outcomes. And we would have to go back to relationship building in order to restore trust. And essentially, what we found out was the groups we were working with were being overlooked instead of being included from the get-go in our planning. And in order to alleviate some of that, we have created a new district level committee outside of cabinet that focuses on more equitable outcomes for students. And it has now began meeting every two weeks. And it includes the Foster/Homeless Director, the Title VI Coordinator, the ELL Coordinator, Hmong Liaison. And we will be also integrating some outside government agencies and nonprofits, as well as the tribes in the future.
We started with our focus of this project being on special education and access to services. And we are finally getting moving along that line. But it’s much more complicated because of the legal policies that we have to fight.
Some success, we are examining the areas of greatest concern for our students with study groups, increased eyes on the system, policy and procedure review through a DEI lens. Equity has come to the forefront of our work. And the district’s perspective now incorporates this as common practice. We reach out to others, provide seamless services, we coordinate with those county services and our tiered responses in the school. Working with the community partners, such as Yurok Tribe, allowed us new opportunities for cradle to career services throughout the county, with a recent award of 30 million for the Promise Neighborhood grant.
Our key learnings have basically been one of self-reflection. And we realize that equity wasn’t a new idea. It’d always been one of our goals at the end of the tunnel, but we hadn’t had a lot of focus on it. So, there wasn’t a lot of work being reflected on that. So, we went back to relationship building in order to continuously learn about the people that we are serving, as well as continuous improvement in the work that we’re doing together. So, trust is now at the forefront. We know voice absolutely has to be there and present, who are we serving, who are the users in the system? And just because we have data didn’t mean that we understood the experience of those we serve. And we are trying to do a much more comprehensive job in serving those that we have.
So, in the future, we’re looking at inclusivity and voice in every step, in every practice, as well as reflective practice. And we’re keeping our eyes on the goal of equity at the forefront. So, our train is moving, and the engine’s now started. And so, we’re telling everybody, hold on, buckle up. We’re on our way. Thank you.
Thank you all so much for your hard work this year. We’re so incredibly grateful for each and every one of you, and for all that you do. I know so much of your efforts go unseen or underappreciated, but we see you, we hear you, we deeply appreciate you, and we know it is significant, positive impact all of this work is having and will have on the future for years to come. So, thank you everyone else for joining or listening in today, if you’re listening to the recording. And if you need to reach us, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care.