One of the mottos we hold near and dear is the statement, “We Are Centennial.” These words speak towards the goals of wanting our students to feel connected and know they are cared for and loved within our buildings. As we look inside ourselves, we recognize that there is more we need to do.
Since 2016 and throughout this year, we have embarked on several different initiatives, trainings, and actions to build equity in our District. We don’t share this to brag about work, rather, to illustrate the journey we’ve taken and the need to continually work on items to support our students, families, and the community.
Centennial Schools does not tolerate racism and social injustice and are working to go deeper into working on these issues both in and outside our doors. Some of this work includes an audit and changes to curriculum based on bias, replacing text, creating equity resources for classroom use, and several other initiatives which are included online, on the District’s Equity tab, www.isd12.org/equity. Site administrative teams have also met regularly with middle and high school BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students, under-represented students, and allies to understand concerns and work together on solutions.
We are at work on the next steps of our plan to ensure issues around equity are addressed. With ongoing help from our students, families, and the community, following our next steps of our future equity plan that will focus on creating a safe, welcoming, and healthy environment in our schools.
We will continue working with Equity Alliance Minnesota to perform a comprehensive equity audit in fall of 2021. This will include facilitating listening sessions with all stakeholders, observing our schools and environments, and helping develop an action plan for the future. Through these collaborative processes and initiatives, we are going to learn about other areas where we need to improve. We are committed to assessing each one to help improve the culture of our schools.
We’ve had continued dialogue with our school board of hiring an Equity Coordinator position for our District. The next step is to fill the position prior to the next school year.
In ongoing conversations with students, we need to continually work on building trust with them. We will continue to promote the Centennial Tip Line, which has been in place for the past seven years, as well as create additional ways to report concerns on any topic confidentially. We also will encourage students to report problems when they occur so we can support them and address the issue immediately.
Two years ago, we developed a restorative practice process called P.A.R.R. (Purpose, Academic, Reflection, Restorative), which addresses issues head-on. Students have opportunities to discuss behavior, understand the impact of their decisions, and learn and grow from their experiences with a goal to not have issues reoccur.
Developed from feedback from our stakeholders, an education component for students includes dedicated time to address topics of racism, bias, dangers and the impact of social media, and other areas that impact the way we respect and treat each other. Our goal is to have this in place at all levels for the next school year.
In addition to the work inside our schools, Centennial’s plan in partnership with stakeholders spreads across our communities. We are developing a plan in partnership with others to bring our community leaders together to develop an initiative that supports these efforts and bring people together.
It is our desire the work will change the narrative—in the school district, in our schools, in the community—and adhere to our mission to empower all learners with voice, knowledge, and skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. If any of our own kids need help, we would jump in, in a heartbeat. Centennial students are all our children. We are responsible for each and every student—all 6,600—and we take this seriously. It’s a moral imperative for all of us do this work and we will not fall short on this mark. Our students are our future.
— Brian Dietz is the Superintendent of Centennial Schools.