Path laid out at BOE meeting for more equitable, inclusive district

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Board of Education heard a presentation on the district’s equity, diversity and inclusion program at its May 25 meeting, from the New Jersey School Boards Association’s Equity Council facilitator Penelope Lattimer and Adele Macula, an assistant professor in the education department at New Jersey City University and a former associate superintendent in the Jersey City Public Schools. Lattimer and Macula were already working with the BOE in December, when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that requires all New Jersey schools to teach diversity and inclusion by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year in September.

“We’re taking a look at the curriculum that you are offering from pre-K through grade 12 within the district, opening up each course of study, and looking for the evidence that they are paying attention to equity, diversity and inclusion,” Lattimer said at the meeting. “One way to address this would be to say, ‘Who is registered for what courses? How are they doing in those courses? What materials are we using when we’re teaching literacy, when we’re teaching mathematics and science?’”

She said that the district’s department supervisors and staff will be surveyed and their comments will be taken into account; Lattimer also said that Bloomfield staff has already been willing to learn and participate.

“Readiness requires that we all accommodate a feeling of discomfort,” Lattimer said. “That may require us to do something different, or you may have to hold back and listen a little more so that I can hear the center of that message and then consider how that might have meaning to the work that you’re doing.”

As students reach middle and high school in the district, Lattimer and Macula will look at which students are taking which classes and how they are doing in those classes. But before they can evaluate students, they will evaluate teachers, as well.

“When we take a look at achievement, we want to know who is taking what courses, and how are they doing in those courses,” Lattimer said. “What supports are provided for struggling learners and what supports are provided for high-achieving learners? This begins with the teachers understanding the resources that they are using. So before we can say how the learners are doing, we have to make sure our educators understand the richness of what’s provided.”

According to Macula, there will be 38 professional learning sessions throughout the year. The sessions began in 2021 and will conclude in March 2022. Of the 38 sessions, 29 will be conducted via virtual video calls. Nine of them will be prerecorded for the district to refer back to at a later date; six are for teachers, and three are for community stakeholders.

“We are looking to integrate the work and the planned topics into everything that Bloomfield is doing,” Macula said at the meeting. “It will be in the daily fabric of the learning opportunities provided for students and teachers.”

The topics include shared vocabulary, unconscious bias, challenging assumptions, equity in the community, organizational values, and ambassadors and advocacy.

Both Lattimer and Macula said that the training and professional development will take into account what Bloomfield is already doing in the topic areas or has done in the past.

“It’s not always about what’s absent,” Lattimer said. “We’re going to be affirming what is going well in this district, and we know that a great deal is going well. We want to affirm it so that we don’t discard the good stuff that’s already happening. You’ve hired well in this school district, and we want to make sure that your leadership and the teacher leaders are recognized for their willingness to be what we ask the youngsters in the classroom to be, which is continuous learners.”

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