More than 100 Leander ISD students, staff and community members packed the Wiley Middle School cafeteria Monday night to recount experiences and explore ways to give a voice to those that feel marginalized on LISD campuses.
Two collegiate professors – Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards of the University of Louisville and Dr. Bradley Carpenter of Baylor University – facilitated the evening’s Community Conversations on Equity and Diversity, just as they did the first meeting on March 3. Dawson-Edwards and Carpenter started with shared learning on topics including “Equality versus Equity,” “Inclusiveness and Sense of Belonging,” and “Compassionate Communication.”
The goal of the Community Conversations on Equity & Diversity series is to have a school district community committed to ensuring each and every student has a sense of belonging and has trusted adults and peers at their school.
The shared learning at the meeting’s outset helped form a foundation to have small-group conversations, an opportunity for community voices to be heard. The subject matter was often emotional and always compelling.
“I don’t want to see groups of students not equally represented in all of our programs,” said Chris Simpson, principal at Leander High School and a participant in the evening’s meeting. “What am I missing as a principal? How do I generate access points for our students so that they all get an equitable education? It’s time to start figuring this out and I’m glad we’re having this conversation.”
Simpson noted that there were just a handful of African-American students in his Leander High School graduating class in 1993. Nearby, Nekosi Nelson nodded; the recent transplant from Austin has children at C.C. Mason Elementary and Running Brushy Middle School.
“I hope to get an introduction to what the district is doing and its approach, some insight into solutions that are in the works,” Nelson said. “I’m very new to this conversation and I’m looking to learn.”
The purpose of the meeting was to begin to understand and bring meaning to individual experiences in LISD schools. Carpenter highlighted that his experience as a principal opened his eyes to the fact that not every child always felt as valued in school as others.
“How many kids to you know that walk through the door of a school and don’t have a deep, trustful relationship with an adult in that school building?” he asked. “There’s a difference in inclusion and belonging in a deep way.”
In addition to in-person meetings, an anonymous survey is available to share stories of equity, diversity, inclusion and identity as they pertain to student or caregiver experiences in Leander ISD. This feedback will help shape the district’s long-term approach to the topic of Equity and Diversity.
Visit www.leanderisd.org/equitydiversity for more information about Community Conversations on Equity & Diversity.