Creating a stronger, more equitable school community
Gates Chili Central School District is home to more than 3,700 students with unique cultural identities representing many races, religions, languages and more. Despite Gates Chili’s reputation as one of the most diverse districts in Monroe County, state data showed troubling disparities in student success across various subsets of the student population.
“District data over the last several years revealed disproportionality, or inequity, in academics and in the way that we discipline students,” explained Director of Pupil Personnel Services Jason deJong. “For example, the data showed us that as a district, we were suspending students with disabilities at a higher rate than their general education peers. When students with disabilities are suspended, it limits their ability to access needed resources, which can further affect their learning.”
District leaders suspected the disproportionality seen with students with disabilities was a microcosm of disproportionality within the district as a whole. This prompted about 50 members of the school community, including faculty, staff, administrators, parents and Board of Education members, to come together last school year to form the Root Cause Team. They worked with the New York University: Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools to analyze district data and find the root cause of the inequity.
Together, they also worked to identify the beliefs, policies, and practices that were contributing to that inequity. At the same time, dozens of staff members throughout the district also began taking part in comprehensive culturally-responsive education training. This work focused on implicit, or unconscious, bias and the effects it can have on students.
“Equity cannot be achieved without an understanding of inequity,” said Associate Superintendent for Instruction Carol Stehm. “Unconscious bias can manifest in small interpersonal interactions but has broader implications for our students, particularly students of color and other underserved populations. By becoming responsive to the needs of all students, we are creating a learning environment where every student feels safe, respected and heard.”
These difficult conversations and revelations led district leaders to create a strategic, multi-year plan to improve outcomes for all students. The Gates Chili Strategic Plan for Equity is divided into five focused areas of improvement: improving data systems, teaching and learning, multi-tiered systems of support, recruitment and hiring, and restorative justice. Over the next three to five years, teachers and staff will use this strategic plan as a blueprint for change and the dismantling of disproportionality.
In addition to the strategic plan, the Root Cause Team and others came together to develop the district’s moral imperative statement. This guiding principle was adopted by the Board of Education in October, and serves as the district’s pledge to it students, families and community present and future.
Superintendent Christopher Dailey, who served as a root cause team member, explained, “our diversity and multiculturalism are an asset, and by celebrating that, we have an opportunity to create a stronger, more equitable learning community where all students can thrive.”
To learn more about the Gates Chili Strategic Plan for Equity and the Moral Imperative or to sign up for the District Equity Team, go to gateschili.org/Equity.