Members of the Leander ISD community came together Tuesday to have a vulnerable conversation about equity and diversity.
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. Belonging comes where equity, inclusion and diversity meet, the facilitators shared.
Two collegiate professors – Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards of the University of Louisville and Dr. Bradley Carpenter of Baylor University – facilitated the evening’s meeting. They started with shared learning on topics including “Equality versus Equity,” “Shared Identities and Intersectionality,” and “Compassionate Communication.”
The shared learning helped form a foundation to have small-group conversations, an opportunity for community voices – students, parents, teachers and staff – to be heard.
“This was about a community starting to have real conversations about inequities in our system,” said Abby Kennell, principal at Mason Elementary School and a participant in the evening’s meeting. “This is a way to identify what matters and identify what we collectively need to do to serve our students.”
As the district moves along its Equity and Diversity journey, Carpenter said parents want to know their kids are safe and have an equitable opportunity to learn. In doing so, Dawson-Edwards spoke to the importance of having intellectual empathy, the idea that it’s not enough to just guess how someone else feels.
“You have to gather stories and information about each other to better understand how someone feels,” Dawson-Edwards said.
The purpose of the meeting was to begin a conversation with the school district and the community. This truth-telling and storytelling phase, Dawson-Edwards said, is what leads to healing, and that healing leads to reconciliation and equitable schools.
“You’ve gotten started,” Dawson-Edwards said. “The fact that you’re having this conversation – employing intellectual empathy and being vulnerable — says a lot.”
“This is a conversation that needed to be started,” added Mark Koller, Danielson Middle School principal who participated Tuesday. “I’m excited about the opportunity in front of us, but I know it’s going to be hard work.”
Another meeting, a repeat of Tuesday’s format, will be held Monday, March 9, from 6–8 p.m. in the Wiley Middle School cafeteria.
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.