OPUSD promotes inclusion with Diversity and Equity Task Force subcommittees

People involved, and what they do

The Oak Park Unified School District Diversity and Equity Task Force was created in January of 2020, and it includes district leadership, site and parent representatives, student representatives and school board members, with an emphasis on including members who represent diverse cultures and races. 

Currently, the task force is composed of seven subcommittees. Each subcommittee is dedicated to improving OPUSD in these topics: curriculum, policy and personnel, student culture, LGBTQ+, ableism and disabilities, events and celebrations and racial healing, justice and protection.

Diversity and Equity Task Force webpage describes developing actions and goals. (Mina Jung/Talon)

 

Curriculum

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Jay Greenlinger (Photo courtesy of Dr. Jay Greenlinger)

Led by: Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Jay Greenlinger

The Curriculum subcommittee is focused on examining curriculum-related issues at all levels of OPUSD schools to determine needs and plans for changes that embrace global diversity. 

“Specifically, we have identified four goals for the subcommittee,”Greenlinger wrote to the Talon. 

The subcommittee’s goals consist of a diversity and equity “lens” to evaluate current and potential materials, guidance for teachers related to sensitive topics, reviewing the current reading list and making recommendations for increasing diversity of voices represented in literature. The subcommittee is also providing input on the development of an Ethnic Studies course at OPHS/OPIS/OVHS. 

The expected implementation of new high school English courses will occur in the 2021-2022 school year, and the Ethnic Studies course is on track to be added in the 2022-2023 school year. 

 

Policy and Personnel

Assistant Superintendent Stew McGugan (Photo courtesy of Stew McGugan)

Led by: Assistant Superintendent Stew McGugan

The Policy and Personnel Committee is focused on educating the staff, students and community regarding equity for all. 

“The committee is a group of parents, students, staff and outside consultants to collaborate on ways to help improve the overall health and well being of all of our students,” McGugan wrote to the Talon.  

As of right now, they are still working on goals that will be reviewed in the next couple of meetings.

If you would like to be a part of this subcommittee, contact McGugan for more information at [email protected]

 

Student Culture

Led by: Red Oak Elementary School teacher Michelle Cass and Oak Park Independent School teacher Amy Kobayashi

The Student Culture subcommittee is focused on providing students with a voice in how they see student culture reflected at OPUSD. 

“Our subcommittee has been focused on listening to the concerns of the students in our district and is currently working on formulating a plan with the direction of Dr. Walker. Our goal is to build stronger relationships between students and staff throughout the district,” Cass wrote to the Talon. 

Dr. Terry Walker recently joined OPUSD as Equity Consultant. Under her guidance, OPUSD, DETF subcommittees, school administration, teachers and the parent community are currently taking part in sessions to build collective equity to improve equitable outcomes for all students at OPUSD. 

If you are a student with a concern you want to voice, or if you would like to join this subcommittee, contact Cass at [email protected] or Kobayashi at [email protected]

 

LGBTQ+

Safety and Equity Coordinator Holly Baxter (Photo courtesy of Holly Baxter)

Led by Safety and Equity Coordinator Holly Baxter

The LGBTQ+ subcommittee has various goals in supporting and educating OPUSD. One of these goals is to consider and make recommendations in expanding a gender diversity support and learning program to Medea Creek Middle School, as well as about the policies of the district pertaining to LGBTQ+ students and families. The subcommittee also aims to provide meaningful support to school staff who are working with LGBTQ+ students.

To do this, the LGBTQ+ subcommittee aims to form a liaison with Gay Straight Student Alliances at MCMS, OPHS and

Agoura High School. The subcommittee is also considering parent initiatives around LGBTQ+ education.

“We hope to make a meaningful impact on the lives of our LGBTQ+ students, as well as to improve our school climate through promoting an overall sense of understanding, empathy, and celebration of diversity,” Baxter wrote to the Talon.

According to Baxter, the subcommittee comprises students, staff and parents who are connected with and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community in Oak Park. If you would like to join this committee, contact Baxter at [email protected]

 

Ableism and Disabilities

Oak Hills Elementary School counselor Alana Schulman (Photo courtesy of Alana Schulman)

Led by: Oak Hills Elementary School counselor Alana Schulman

The Ableism and Disabilities subcommittee’s goals include developing curriculums and programs that are inclusive to different types of abilities and disabilities that would be incorporated into daily learning. By doing this, the subcommittee hopes to increase representation and awareness.

“When learning about individuals with different ability levels and/or disabilities in the day-to-day curriculum rather than an added feature, it will help build connections and empathy rather than a sense of ‘otherness,’” Schulman wrote to the Talon.

Besides spreading awareness of different people’s abilities and disabilities, the Ableism and Disabilities subcommittee hopes to bring a sense of unity to OPUSD.

“As a district we pride ourselves for being on the cutting edge of new teaching approaches and the education of our students,” Schulman wrote. “By forming this committee of parents, students, educators and various members of our community, we can come together to make positive changes in an ever-changing world.”

If you or someone you know from the OPUSD community are willing to share an experience regarding a disability or of a time you learned about individuals with any kind of disabilities in books or classes, please contact Schulman at [email protected]

 

Events and Celebrations

Sixth grade humanities teacher at Medea Creek Middle School Vanessa Heller (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Heller)

Led by: sixth grade humanities teacher Vanessa Heller at Medea Creek Middle School

The Events and Celebrations subcommittee’s main focus is about inclusion and the celebration of different groups of people, with an emphasis on maintaining these goals throughout the entire year rather than a brief period of time.

“Yes, February is Black History Month. But that doesn’t mean Black people only exist in February,” Heller said. “So it’s kind of, ‘how do we focus on the positivity of togetherness and inclusion, all the time?’” 

The subcommittee would like to acknowledge and celebrate not only different holidays, but also other special aspects such as events and famous people. According to Heller, the Events and Celebrations subcommittee’s job is to promote these aspects throughout OPUSD to eliminate any sense of otherness.

“I see our committee as almost like publicity, and the joke in our committee is we’re the ‘shiny’ committee,” Heller said. “We’re putting out the glitz and glamour of the excitement of who we are.”

Currently, the Events and Celebrations subcommittee is drafting a publicity campaign that needs to be approved by the DETF and the administration. The campaign will use social media to integrate school activities and to interview students about their identities and values.

“[The goal is to find] what makes us Oak Park, even going into the community and the businesses to interview people [and to] really have a sense of collectivity and celebration,” Heller said.

With an emphasis on inclusivity, the Events and Celebrations subcommittee hopes to showcase OPUSD by having a visual presence and showing what makes the students, staff, and families in the district special.

“Let’s celebrate our differences, and that’s what we have in common is how different we are,” Heller said. “I think [it] leads to acceptance, not just tolerance … so I think that’s a great value to our subcommittee.”

 

Racial Healing, Justice and Protection

OPUSD parent Audley Harrison (Photo courtesy of Audley Harrison)

Led by: OPUSD parent Audley Harrison

The Racial Healing, Justice and Protection subcommittee is focused on providing recommendations that help OPUSD unite and heal as a community so all students’ needs are met.

“That process is being led by Dr. Walker, the district’s new Equity Consultant,” Harrison wrote to the Talon. 

The subcommittee has 14 members which consist of administrators, teachers, students, counselors and parents, with an emphasis on building trust and openness within their subcommittee. Harrison’s personal hope is that the recommendations will be submitted to the Board of Education for adoption as new or amended policies. 

“In our last meeting, we worked on a specific project where we shared our truth with each other, and discussed what we valued, and what we felt was our privilege. This was an enlightening experience that had everyone expressing themselves, sharing their stories openly,” Harrison wrote to the Talon. 

Harrison has optimistic views about the future of the subcommittee.

“I believe our group is ready to take on this important work more united than before. Our subcommittee is meeting next week, where we will finalize our specific goals that we will present to DETF for discussion. The ultimate goal is to improve the school climate/culture for all students in the district,” Harrison wrote. 

If you would like to join or contribute to this subcommittee, contact Harrison or his co-chair Susan Allen on [email protected] or [email protected]