Thomas addresses educational equity

Josh FloryOur Town Youth

Superintendent Bob Thomas released the following statement on Tuesday, Dec. 7, regarding efforts by Knox County Schools to promote educational equity:

“As the Board of Education gathers feedback about its search for a new superintendent, I have been encouraged to see that the district’s work regarding educational equity has been recognized, and that our community wants this work to continue. With that in mind, I wanted to share an update regarding these efforts.

“In November of 2014, Knox County Schools created the Disparities in Educational Outcomes (DEO) Task Force to address disproportions in academic achievement and discipline outcomes. The Task Force presented its recommendations five years ago, and KCS has made great progress in implementing those recommendations.

“As we move forward with this work, we have renamed the DEO as the Alliance for Educational Equity, in order to highlight the community partnership that is vital for this mission and to reflect our pursuit of educational equity.

“In addition, we received a great deal of feedback in recent years from community partners and advocacy groups who asked the district to make the committee’s meetings open to the public. As a result, we have created a system of quarterly Alliance meetings that will be open to the public, and that will include a public forum opportunity for feedback. The first of these meetings was held on Oct. 26, and the next one will be held at Central High School on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

“In addition, we will continue our practice of holding an annual community meeting, which allows for stakeholders to interact with KCS leaders around a variety of specific topics.

“As part of the Alliance’s work, we have also created a group of six equity teams. These teams will each have one co-chair from the district and one co-chair from the community, and they will focus on the following topics:

  • Academics;
  • Discipline;
  • School Culture;
  • Training / Staff Development;
  • Student Supports; and
  • Communications.

“The work of these equity teams will be aligned with our district Strategic Plan and with the Tennessee Department of Education’s equity framework.

“The district is currently finalizing an equity policy that will be brought to the Board of Education for consideration in January or February. I believe that this will provide the next superintendent with an important foundation to guide our work in the future.

“In addition, we have adopted the following definition of equity to help us understand the goal that we are pursuing:

“Championing the individual cultures, identities, talents, abilities, languages and interests of each student to maximize academic success and social-emotional well-being by promoting that they receive educational opportunities and resources, even when this means differentiating resource allocation, to meet their unique circumstances and educational aspirations.

“Finally, we have partnered with the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance to conduct an equity audit for the district. The first phase of this work will analyze our recruitment and retention strategies and provide insight into the challenges and experiences of educators of color within our district.

“When I became superintendent, one of my three priorities was to eliminate disparities in academic achievement and discipline. Much work remains, but I am deeply grateful for the efforts of our employees to pursue this goal, and I am confident that the district’s next leader will be well-positioned to achieve concrete results in this area.”

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes the blog Hall Pass for the KCS website.

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