Diversity and inclusion: the work done and what comes next
To all in the New Westminster Schools community,
News and events over the last few weeks have again highlighted the continuing need we have to address diversity, inclusion and anti-racism initiatives: from the tragic recent news shared from the Williams Lake First Nations to the inspiring activities we’re seeing right now, in support of Black History Month.
On either end of the spectrum, and everywhere along the way, these are all valuable learning experiences that offer students and each of us opportunities to listen, learn and grow.
This has also provided us a chance to loop back with you on some related, important work that’s been happening over the last while.
About a year ago, we started to gather research about where everyone within our school communities stood in their approaches, beliefs and experiences around discrimination and inclusion. The goal of this part of the project was to better understand the community we’re working in and the ones we’re supporting, as we seek to build stronger justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) practices into our policies and learning opportunities.
Almost 1500 parents, students, staff and community members participated in the surveys and/or focus groups! Thank you. The thoughts, concerns and hopes you shared will help inform our processes and desired outcomes as we build our path forward.
One of the things we were most excited to see was the overall interest in this work. Approximately 4 out of every 5 people agreed that this work was important to them – with our District staff reporting the highest level of agreement around the value of engaging in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion work (at 94%).
Conversely, this work has helped us identify areas where we have some urgent work to do; this includes improving student comfort around bringing up incidents to school district employees … responding to feedback that points to the need to make the process both clearer and more supportive for everyone.
As we build out the roadmap of action required, here are a few things you can expect to see:
- More training to support our staff in navigating issues around justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Revision of the policies and administrative procedures that set the expectation and tone for this work.
- Targeted work to address the gaps this process uncovered, such as student comfort in reporting.
- There will also be overlaps from concurrent other work the District is engaged in, like that done through the Equity in Action project (this included a recent District and province-wide scan to assess where there are systemic barriers impacting Indigenous student achievement).
To read more on the overall findings of the diversity and inclusion report, you can find an analysis of the work and the executive summary paper shared here: https://newwestschools.ca/understanding-and-opportunities-the-diversity-and-inclusion-review/
While there’s certainly work to do – good things to build on and gaps to address – we will follow up with you along the way. We didn’t get here overnight, and this will take time and commitment to do properly. But we’re excited about the opportunities as we really step into some of this vital work.
On behalf of the Board of Education, thank you for your engagement and support,