BRISTOL ‚Äď The Board of Education‚Äôs recent ‚ÄúCommunity Conversation about Equity, Inclusiveness and Excellence‚ÄĚ at Bristol Eastern High School drew 109 participants.
The event ‚Äúprovided attendees the opportunity to understand their own identity and then meet other participants to share each others‚Äô most significant identity traits,‚ÄĚ said Superintendent Susan Moreau. ‚ÄúThese identity traits include gender, race, religion, language, occupation, family and others.‚ÄĚ
The participants included middle school and high school students, she said. ‚ÄúThe final activity of the night had participants writing a letter of commitment to themselves of how they will further the conversation among their friends and colleagues. We will mail those back to the participants in a few weeks.‚ÄĚ
Moreau said school officials have not yet discussed how they will follow up on the event.
The event was facilitated by Kerry Lord, director of programs at Connecticut Center for School Change.
The Center ‚Äúis a statewide, non-profit organization with a mission to improve teaching and learning, to reduce achievement gaps, and to promote equity in Connecticut schools,‚ÄĚ according to the organization‚Äôs website. ‚ÄúThe Center supports comprehensive preK-12 educational reform through a system-wide, integrated approach focused on improving instructional practice and developing leadership at all levels, from parents to superintendents.‚ÄĚ
Board Chairman Chris Wilson said these types of conversations are happening now with many educational organizations, including the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and the Capitol Region Education Council.
‚ÄúEven the business community is starting to have these conversations,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúMuch of the diversity in the ‚Äė70s, ‚Äė80s, and ‚Äė90s focused around civil rights and affirmative action. After the 2000 census revealed how much the country was really changing this has caused corporate America to rethink how the marketplace is changing. Now business leaders are beginning to ask how can diversity and inclusion impact the bottom line.‚ÄĚ
The difference between diversity and inclusiveness can be defined as ‚Äúdiversity is being invited to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance,‚ÄĚ he said.
Research by companies such as Price Waterhouse Cooper show that gender and ethnic inclusion help positively affect their bottom line, Wilson added.
‚ÄúEveryone holds beliefs about various social and identity groups,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúSnap judgments are not always positive. When diversity and inclusion is first brought up, there is usually a lot of support for the idea, but once you start getting into changing policy or other issues you start to see some pushback. I think that‚Äôs why we need to create a shared view in order to proceed.‚ÄĚ
For more information about the Connecticut Center for School Change, visit https://ctschoolchange.org/.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.