Sherwood district's new equity director outlines goals
The Sherwood School District's first director of diversity, equity and inclusion, also known as DEI, recently met with the school board, giving them an overview of her position and future goals.
Before outlining the district's objectives to the board during a Nov. 17 workshop, TaMara Glavan talked about values that guide her personally, noting that attitude is a key value.
Glavan, who began working for the district July 1, has a wide educational background, having served as a teacher on special assignment at Sheridan Japanese School, focusing on student behavior, attendance, leadership, social emotion learning and guiding school-wide DEI initiatives.
"Growing up, my Mom always expressed that attitude is everything and she's right," Glavan said. "To me, our attitudes help us lead people â€“ when we have an attitude that is inclusionary and focused on bringing people together, that is most important. It helps us gain understanding of each other."
Courage is another value important to the new diversity director.
"To me, it takes courage to ask questions, and to engage in conversations where you don't always know the outcome," Glavan said. "With this work, there are often conversations where you don't know where people are at and you don't have an understanding of their history."
Glavan continued, "Really, having courage on the forefront to engage in those conversations, to ask questions, and to listen to others and work together is very important."
In addition to perspective, another value is inclusivity.
"This work is all inclusive," she said. "We all have learning and growing to do, and we all are a part of this community. It's important to me that you all understand that when I say inclusion, I mean all of our students, all of our families, everyone should be included in this work."
In the presentation, diversity, equity and inclusion were defined for board members.
Diversity was defined as, "A combination of a variety of perspectives and experiences that shape our community." Glavan cited as examples: income, gender, race, religion, language and ability.
Equity was defined as "Justice and fairness, free from bias, in the treatment of and opportunities presented to students, families, staff and other stakeholders." Examples include identifying barriers to student achievement, communicating with students and families and individualized support.
The definition of inclusion, as presented to the board: "Creating a safe and welcoming experience by incorporating individual's experiences and perspectives into the school community, culture and environment." Examples of inclusion: signage in multiple languages and making events accessible to individuals with a variety of physical and mental capabilities.
As an example of the diversity found in the Sherwood School District, Dr. Joshua Fritts, director of student services, presented statistics showing school enrollment, diversity of languages in the school district and attendance.
"Our overall enrollment has declined over the last few years," Fritts noted. "Yet, when we look at our subgroups of students within the district, what we see is an increase in the diversity of our student population."
As an example, Fritts pointed out the number of languages spoken among district students.
"If you look in the 2016-17 school year, we had 28 languages represented in the district," Fritts said. "Fast forward to now, we have 44 languages represented within the district."
The 10 most common languages are English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, German, Portuguese, Russian.
"I assure you there are many, many other languages in the district, as well," Fritts said. "Each student, when they enroll, the family is required to fill out a home language survey, so we are able to give this for each of our students."
Fritts then provided attendance numbers for the district.
"Overall, as a district, we have really strong attendance," Fritz said. "Our average is really well above 95 percent attendance. Per the Oregon Department of Education, regular attenders are defined as having greater than 92 percent attendance, which means the equivalent of not missing more than 17 school days during a school year."
Glavan pointed out to the school board several efforts over the years to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the Sherwood School District through reviewing student achievement data, previous years' Strategic Plans and professional development opportunities.
Previous and ongoing goals of the district have included building a positive culture in the district and ensuring recruitment and retention of highly qualified and diverse staff.
The district's goal, as presented to board members, is to maximize relationships and two-way communication among staff, families and community.
The district, in the 2018 Strategic Plan, aimed to "develop and enhance systems of support to address the changing needs of students through a culture of care."
Marleen Carroll, interim director of curriculum and instruction, addressed the school board to say the district has been conducting Equity Audit and Empathy interviews using open-ended, guiding questions to prompt testimonies about personal experiences. In Spring of 2021, 81 participants were involved in the interviews, including students, family and staff.
The district has said it will continue to pursue an anti-bias equity-focused training for administrators and staff with established learning goals.
Glavan said the next step, based on work done during the 2021-22 school year, is to create the 2022-2023 school year equity, anti-bias, initiatives.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.