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JPS Adopts Equity, Inclusivity, And Diversity Policy

A new district policy, adopted by the Jamestown Public Schools board of education this week, will help to ensure a “positive and inclusive learning environment” will be created for students.

The board unanimously adopted its “Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education” policy following a second read. The policy states that the board of education is “committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive learning environment where all students, especially those currently and historically marginalized, feel safe, included, welcomed, and accepted, and experience a sense of belonging and academic success.”

“I just want to say that this is an extremely important policy for the district given the social circumstances that we are currently in,” Joseph Pawelski, the board’s policy committee chair, said prior to the policy’s adoption. “I just think it is important to clarify what our standards are.”

“Our school district has a mission statement, and that mission applies to all students,” said superintendent Kevin Whitaker in a statement released after the meeting. “I am glad that the board has made this commitment to review our practices and systems to ensure that all students have access to the best education possible. I look forward to our work on this into the future.”

Added Pawelski, “The board accepts responsibility, and will hold ourselves accountable, for every student to have full access to a quality education, qualified teachers, challenging curriculum, full opportunity to learn, and sufficient, individually-tailored support for learning so they can achieve successful academic and personal lives.”

The policy sets forth district goals and how they will reach those goals including:

¯ Ensuring that policies, systems, curriculum and instructional materials reflect the Board’s commitment to educational equity, including examining all curriculum materials for bias;

¯ Class instructional activities and extracurricular programs shall be designed to provide opportunities for cross-cultural and cross-racial interactions that foster respect for diversity;

¯ Establishing appropriate district-wide and building-level coordinating committees to conduct the work. Committees will include representation from staff, administration, students and parents who will assist in developing and implementing specific prevention initiatives and develop and implement a plan for ensuring equitable educational opportunities are being provided to all students. More information will be forthcoming on how to join a committee;

¯ Provide training programs for students, and annually for employees, to raise awareness of the issues surrounding cultural responsiveness, equity and inclusion and;

¯ Identify indicators necessary to monitor student outcomes, engagement and school climate and to ensure that academic outcomes will not be predictable by actual or perceived personal characteristics. All findings will be made accessible to the community.

In other business, Whitaker began his superintendent’s remarks by commending the high school’s National Honor Society on its virtual induction ceremony that was aired earlier in the week and also praised district staff members who made the distribution of grocery boxes prior to the break possible.

“Some insane number of food boxes were given out all around the district,” he said. “I think it was 1,700 boxes of food that was given away and I just wanted to reach out to all the volunteers who helped do that distribution, that food distribution of the food service folks who packed up those boxes and did such a great job with that and I feel really good that we helped out our community.”

Student ex-officio board members Megan Higbee and Allison Tilburg also updated the board during Tuesday night’s meeting of some updates at the high school, noting that the A Cappella Choir and marching band had virtual performances around Christmas time that was posted on the district’s Facebook pages and also discussed the honor society induction earlier in the week.

Tilburg also complimented the district on the distribution of food prior to the Christmas break.

“I thought that was a really nice thing that the school district did for its students,” Tilburg said. “I know that I personally went to the high school and picked one up for my family and it was a very smooth process and very simple and I would think that that’s something the district should keep doing after the pandemic because I know my family really enjoyed it and I’m sure other families did as well.”

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” school board vice president Patrick Slagle said in response. “Any time we can help out our community and families, especially around the holiday season, is definitely something we should continue to look at.”

The board began Tuesday’s meeting in executive session and later unanimously authorized Whitaker to prefer the use of Civil Service Law Section 75 disciplinary charges against a member of the Association of Jamestown Paraprofessionals “as soon as possible.”

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