Late last week, a former employee of Mason Public Schools chose to speak to the media about the District’s instructional practices regarding educating our students on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). In regard to the incident in question, a former Mason teacher stated that their classroom would participate in the National Black Lives Matter In School “Week of Action”.
New initiatives like this are typically reviewed by multiple stakeholders to verify content accuracy and determine age-appropriateness. Unfortunately, the short time frame did not allow for enough time to review the material, ensure appropriateness for our students and roll it out as an option for Black History Month.
Mason Public Schools provided all K-12 staff a variety of resources to use in the classroom during Black History Month, many of which are also recommended by Black Lives Matter, and encouraged staff to participate in Black History Month activities taking place in some District buildings. All classroom teachers were encouraged to consider the resources to supplement the curriculum as appropriate including materials from the Center for Racial Justice and Education, National Geographic, Learning for Justice, and other organizations. To say the District denied a staff member the opportunity to discuss Black History Month, or DEI, in the classroom is simply not true.
Mason Public Schools is actively working to enhance DEI efforts District-wide and has been for some time. We know we have work to do in this area, but we are building momentum. Our first diversity committee meeting was held on December 10, 2018. Since that time, the Diversity Committee, consisting of parents, staff, students and community members, has met many times to develop a plan for our DEI work and all staff have been encouraged to attend a meeting to provide input. This group meets monthly, meeting dates are on the website, and all meetings are open to the public.
The role of the Diversity Committee is to make recommendations to the Superintendent and the Board of Education regarding DEI. Thanks to their recommendations to the Superintendent and the Board of Education, the District hired an independent diversity consultant. With his support, Mason Public Schools is establishing goals, an action plan and strategic plan alignment for the Diversity Committee, the District and the community as a whole. In addition, the District has held professional development sessions with staff and leadership as well as supported film and book studies. These activities equip our staff to address important topics like racial justice, educational equity, implicit bias, and cultural relevance. Most recently, on Friday, February 26, Mason Public Schools provided a full-day professional development session for all staff, led by national speakers, focused entirely on DEI.
As a school district, we are making a significant effort to focus on inclusion of all and will continue to do so as we recognize and value the importance for all students and staff to feel welcome here. We don’t have it all figured out, but we do have more than two years of intentional work as a foundation for our ever-growing efforts to create an inclusive environment in our schools and community. Thank you to all of you who are continuing to focus on the positive momentum in our District. We recognize that our work is not done and ask you all to continue to work with us as we move forward on this journey.
-Mason Public Schools Administration