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School Board Sets Goals For 2021-22 School Year, Participates In Racial Equity Presentation

Lanise Stevens of Johns Hopkins University speaks to Board of Education members at the July 15 meeting.

Continuing to protect students and staff against Covid-19 and eliminate “systemic racism and lingering white supremacy” from the district are two of the goals set July 15 by the Board of Education.

The Board meets each July to review progress on goals during the just-completed school year and set new goals for the upcoming year.

No new categories were added to the Board’s five goal categories, but each category was tweaked a little over the previous version.

The Board was helped in its deliberations by Gwen Thornton from the New Jersey School Boards Association.

The five goals the Board decided on, and which will be voted on during the August meeting, are as follows:

  • Health and Safety: Continue to ensure the health and safety of students and staff surrounding Covid-19 through policy, procedure, facility upgrades, promotion of vaccination programs and screening programs during the return to full-day, full-time in-person instruction. Remain focused on facility security projects, social emotional programs and mental health to protect and support students and staff.
  • Equity: Continue the elimination of systemic racism and lingering white supremacy, and remove access barriers so all students have equal access to rigorous academic programming. Ensure that all races are included in the structure of the district and any attempt or practice to dominate or highlight another unfairly will not be tolerated.
  • Rigorous Programming: Support policy and programs that address learning gaps, support learning recovery, and promote learning acceleration to assist students in reaching their full learning potential post-pandemic. Continue the expansion of innovative college and career readiness programs, affording students the opportunity to pursue their passions.
  • Sustainability and Green Initiatives: Support and create policies to reduce waste and lower energy consumption; foster environmental awareness among staff and students, and encourage the school community to engage in environmentally sound projects, with each school achieving Sustainable Jersey certification.
  • Community Engagement: Work to further relationships and better leverage technology and social media to connect and proactively promote the school district with the community at large and to ensure family engagement of students attending the Franklin Township Public Schools.

Once the goals are approved, schools Superintendent John Ravally and Assistant Superintendent Dan Loughren will distribute them to faculty and staff, Ravally said.

“We try to weave them into the fabric of everything we do,” Ravally said. “We will talk to all the people who would be important to all of these goals … so that they’re well-understanding of what the Board is asking for us to get accomplished this year. Then we’ll have ongoing discussions as time goes on.”

“By agreeing to the goals, we’re agreeing to put money behind them,” Board president Nancy LaCorte said.

The goal-setting session was preceded by a training program in equity in schools systems, presented by Lanise Stevens of Johns Hopkins University.

Stevenson brought Board members through a series of exercises and discussion points that she presented to district staff over the last school year.

Among the exercises was one in which the Board drew a cartoon of what their middle school locker looked like. Stevens used those drawings as starting points in a discussion on how the Board members’ cultures were reflected in what they had in their lockers.

“I want you to process through how your locker reflected your cultural values, your beliefs, what did you prioritize,” Stevens said. “How did that connect to your culture?”

“I’m hoping that it unearthed some assumptions that you didn’t know that you had, and that you see how we all in our decisions, do socially construct environments for students where some students are going to win because they’re like you, and other students are going to inevitably lose because they’re not like you,” she said. “Until you can separate who you are from your decisions, we can’t be sure that every student truly has the opportunity to learn every day.”

“How does your cultural identity shape your perspectives as a board member, your values as a board member, and your decisions as a board member?” she asked. “And how does what you say to your stakeholders, make people feel like they’re winning or they’re losing?”

“And what I’m saying is, we all can win, if we’re able to see the power of our differences,” Stevens said.

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