Arlington’s Advisory Council digs deep into school equity

  • Saturday, March 23, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

By Gary Sabol

Arlington Public Schools’ Advisory Council for Education has been researching topics under consideration by school board for more than a dozen years, and the committee provides a valuable resource to the board and district.

The advisory council is made up of nearly 30 parents, students, staff, community members, and business and higher education representatives. The committee meets once a month during the school year. Two years ago, the committee recommended revisions to the district’s Strategic Plan.

Throughout the year, the committee is provided presentations on topics such as district funding, safety and security, college and career readiness, discipline and graduation requirements. These presentations provide valuable information and prepare council members to research other topics of interest to the board.

The board is interested in learning more about school schedules and their impact on students. The committee has spent this year looking at other districts’ schedules in the county, state and region to see what’s working and what isn’t.

They’ve narrowed their research to four areas: year-round schooling; secondary schools starting later; early dismissal or late arrival for teacher professional development; and adding additional periods to the class structure.

The council will continue to research these topics and provide information to the board at a meeting in June. Over the past two years, there’s been a district focus on equity and the advisory council has been learning about it. In September, presenter Gary Howard talked with committee members about building community across our differences.

The purpose was to be more culturally competent and aware and also prepare our students for the world beyond Arlington. The Equity Team, a subgroup of the advisory council, has been meeting to design learning activities related to equity. They have observed restorative justice circles.

These provide an opportunity for parties to come together to address harmful behavior in a process that explores harms and needs, obligations and necessary engagement. The students who serve on the advisory council are pivotal to the equity work because they provide a perspective that adults on the committee may not be aware of.

Because of this equity work, several members of the advisory council have been asked to speak at the state School Directors’ Association Equity Conference May 22 in SeaTac. Their topic will be “In Pursuit of Equity.”

The school board formed the advisory council to provide systemic representative public involvement in educational decisions under consideration by the directors. Through their diligent research, the advisory board has served as an invaluable resource to the board. This information is critical when the board needs to make decisions that impact students.

Gary Sabol is director of communications for Arlington Public Schools, which runs a monthly column in this newspaper.

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