Editor’s note: The following statement from Erin Helm, the Kyrene school district’s communications director, relates to actions taken recently by the district board and Superintendent Dr. Jan Vesely in response to concerns expressed by parents last year over racial equity in Kyrene schools.
As part of Kyrene School District’s commitment to ensure equity among all students, the district has announced the selection of Corwin Consulting to perform professional development and training on equity and diversity.
Three other vendors, KOI Education, Kamm Solutions and Human Services Development Collaborative, were also identified as potential providers of supplemental services.
The announcement comes at the end of a competitive process that reviewed responses to a request for proposal issued by the district last fall.
The scope of work of the RFP included a call for services related to professional development on equity; support for the creation of practices to eliminate barriers to inclusion; increased awareness of equity issues; capacity building of knowledge and skills among district staff on restorative discipline; mediation; and conflict resolution.
“In Kyrene, we believe equity and inclusion are the work of all staff, not just one individual,” said Superintendent Dr. Jan Vesely.
“The only way to truly close achievement, opportunity and discipline gaps in our schools is with systemic solutions. We must create a culture of equity throughout the district.”
In a presentation to the Governing Board, Vesely said:
“Services procured through the award of the RFP will allow Kyrene to address key elements of our Strategic Plan 2022 by increasing the knowledge and skills of our staff and leadership pertaining to diversity, equity, inclusion and restorative practices.”
The RFP also called for the development of methods to monitor and evaluate the district’s responsiveness to equity and inclusion in several areas, including hiring practices, culturally responsive curriculum and ongoing staff training.
The committee that reviewed responses to the RFP included a combination of district staff, principals, assistant principals and community members.
One of the community members on the review committee was Jennifer Underwood, the parent of two children who have attended Kyrene schools. Underwood said she was excited about the hiring of a consultant on equity.
“Even though I started the process with great skepticism, I was pleasantly surprised with the ongoing level of feedback,” said Underwood.
“I think the community will be pleased. First steps will be to engage in a deep equity study, and I feel that we selected a highly qualified vendor who will go deep into the culture of Kyrene.
“From there we can develop a comprehensive and sustainable plan for the district.”
The topic of equity and inclusion is one that school districts across the country are addressing, as achievement gaps have been identified by both high and low poverty districts, according to Vesely.
In a 2018 report issued by Public Impact, “Closing Achievement Gaps in Diverse and Low Poverty Schools,” showed that decades of effort among low- poverty and diverse schools to close gaps among students have failed to achieve sufficient results.
The report cited multi-dimensional causes of achievement gaps that require a systematic approach to addressing equity.
“We are hopeful that by embedding the lens of equity and inclusion in every one of Kyrene’s functions—teaching, learning, hiring, community engagement—we can begin to close the gaps in achievement, opportunity and discipline, to ensure equity for all,” said Vesely.