The district’s mission to educate and prepare all students to reach their potential, discover their purpose, and be engaged community members would be impossible to fulfill without a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. In 2017-18, the district established a Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to identify areas to improve support for diverse students and increase awareness of unconscious bias. At the time, the committee included only a small number of staff members but has since grown to include dozens of administrators and faculty members districtwide. The scope of the committee’s work has grown as well, with a broad vision and a set of goals within the areas of academics, character, community and wellness. These four goal areas provide the framework for the district’s five-year Strategic Plan.
Bethlehem Central School District is committed to supporting an environment in which all members of our school community feel free to engage as their authentic selves in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility.
- class issues
- gender identity
- gender expression
- sexual orientation
- mental health
- disability/special needs
- issues specific to women/girls
- religion and beliefs
- family status
- national origin
- home language
- immigration status
- Create and maintain a welcoming, inclusive and equitable school climate that promotes learning
- Provide curriculum and materials that represent and affirm student identities
- Provide professional development that supports innovative, inclusive, and culturally responsive teaching and learning
- Recruit, retain and develop a diverse faculty and staff
- Collaborate with community partners to provide access and opportunities for students
- Amplify student voices and encourage student leadership opportunities
- Provide inclusive programs that strengthen the emotional and physical wellness of students and staff
To effectively educate students from diverse backgrounds, it is important that the school district use a systemic approach that reflects its mission to educate all learners. This requires reviewing policies, practices and procedures to ensure they are aligned to the needs of all students, providing rigor and relevance and opportunities to achieve.
Create and maintain a welcoming, inclusive and equitable school climate that promotes learning
Where we are: Striving for cultural proficiency
Since 2018-19, the district has partnered with an outside consultant to help our school community achieve cultural proficiency. Cultural proficiency is defined as an ongoing process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, sexes, ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, abilities and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each. Learning opportunities are maximized in a culturally proficient environment.
In fall 2019, these DEI experts conducted “equity walks” at each of the district’s seven schools to assess buildings and classrooms as a way of measuring the district’s cultural responsiveness. The report can be found below:
What’s next: School-specific action plans
All schools in the Bethlehem Central School District are developing action plans that are intended to help move the schools toward cultural proficiency by introducing new ideas and strategies at the building level to build both skills and content knowledge that have a positive impact on student achievement. The physical environment is also a focus of these plans, ensuring that diverse cultures, languages, orientations and identities are reflected and valued. Some of this work has been interrupted by the COVID pandemic.
Provide curriculum and materials that represent and affirm student identities
Where we are: A dialogue about cultural relevance in classroom materials
As part of the committee’s work with Generation Ready, we have been learning how to identify curriculum and materials that have lost relevance to students today.
What’s next: Provide direction on diversifying curriculum, materials
The committee is able to serve in an advisory role to help building-level teaching teams at the elementary level and department-level teams at the secondary level with diversity curriculum and materials K-12. The initial focus will be to provide resources for broadening literature selections and using social studies materials that reflect the world around us. Resources will also be available for those who may be looking for additional ways to connect instructional content with the daily lives of students.
The district has a collective responsibility to learn about student cultures and communities and provide schools and classrooms that represent and affirm student identities. In doing so, we must recognize how our own culture shapes our thinking. It is important to commit to engaging in the learning journey to better meet the needs of all BC students.
Provide professional development that supports innovative, inclusive and culturally responsive teaching and learning
Where we are: Providing staff with ongoing professional development in the following areas
- Faculty Workshop on Implicit Bias, Microaggressions, Diversity, Tolerance &
- Equity, Karen Loscocco, Ph.D. University at Albany
- Faculty Presentation on the Power of Inclusion and Voice in an Organizational
- Culture, Gregory G. Owens, LCSW, University at Albany
- Faculty Presentation on Reducing Obstacles and Barriers for Transgender,
- Gender Non-Conforming and LGBTQ+ Youth, Lyndon Cudlitz, Speaker & Anti-Oppression Educator
- Faculty Presentation, Underrepresented Student Voices
- Full-Day Administrative Workshop on Workplace Diversity and Raising Awareness of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dr. John Coverdale, Founder and Consultant, The Center for Workplace Solutions
What’s next: Listening more, learning more, adding more student voices
The district has been providing additional professional development that focuses on the student experience, as well as response to current events, societal trends and the social-emotional impact of these on students.
Recruit, retain and develop a diverse faculty and staff
Where we are: Updated hiring guidelines
With the assistance of outside consultants, the district completed an assessment of hiring practices to reduce barriers to recruiting qualified applicants in a diverse and inclusive way. This has included building more awareness and providing training to district hiring committees on how to reduce implicit bias in the interview process, expand pipelines for recruitment of teachers and leaders, and incorporate other best practices for enhancing diverse and inclusive work environments. A more diverse workforce (i.e. teachers who identify as people of color, LGBTQ+, differently-abled) provides students with an affirmative environment in which to learn, grow and achieve.
What’s next: Paying close attention to data
A welcoming school climate is as important for staff as it is for students. Data and feedback that helps us identify reasons for the departure of former employees, as well as data from the annual School Climate Survey for employees, gives us an important look at information that can aid in employee retention and in maintaining a supportive and diverse work environment.
Collaborate with community partners to provide access and opportunities for students
Where we are: Access is key to the achievement of all students
Several years ago, the Bethlehem Central School District recognized that providing one-to-one instructional technology to students in the form of Chromebooks was vital to ensuring equity. The high school has also made equity and access guiding principles for enrollment in its Advanced Placement programs. The high school provides all students who are willing to take on the rigor of these courses the opportunity to participate in AP. High school and middle school students now have access to online tutoring, leveling the playing field for all students. A Bridge to College college preparation program was introduced in 2019 to help eliminate barriers to the college application process that can exist for first-generation college students and English as a New Language (ENL) students. Access to educational and social opportunities for students of all ages who receive special education services is the focus of a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) that meets regularly to provide suggestions and guidance on ways to improve access and the student experience.
What’s next: Expanding outreach and communications
Communication is key to increasing student access and participation. The committee and district will work to increase communication both internally and externally to help achieve greater equity for students and to promote successful initiatives in meeting the needs of students in underrepresented groups. Ongoing family engagement will also be a priority.
Amplify student voices and encourage student leadership opportunities
Where we are: Student voices are impactful
Students at BC, particularly at the middle and high school levels, have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities that challenge them to be socio-politically conscious and socio-culturally responsive. In these activities, students have the opportunity to learn from other students and build stronger relationships.
What’s next: Listen first, lead by example
The district has created “listening conferences” led by trained facilitators to help all stakeholders to discuss cultural and social values, understand one another and resolve conflict. In addition, schools are encouraging more group discussions at the building level for both staff and students to engage in topics that directly address unique, diverse identities. Recent graduates have added to these conversations by connecting with current students to discuss current events and help students navigate peer relationships.
Foster inclusive programs that strengthen the emotional and physical wellness of students and staff
Where we are: Numbers shine a light on areas of need
School climate surveys have revealed that while students feel supported by faculty and staff they are feeling less confident when it comes to student-to-student relationships. Students also identified issues they felt needed to be addressed including dress code fairness between males and females and favoritism of girls vs. boys and of athletes vs. non-athletes. District administrators have broken down the data by demographics to reflect diverse stakeholders’ impressions and experiences, focusing on the questions that consider issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. This data has been shared with school leaders and with teachers to build awareness and identify opportunities for improvement.
What’s next: Focusing on student support, student relationships
Provide space for teachers and staff to process and determine how to engage with students and families after social and political events have impacted the wider community. Provide more opportunities for students to build strong relationships with one another in the class and school communities by ensuring every student is affirmed and valued.
- District initiated a small staff committee to discuss equity and diversity issues focusing on supporting BIPOC students
- Staff participated in three different professional development sessions with outside presenters to learn more about bias, diversity, language etc.
- District Action Plan made it a priority to foster a more equitable and inclusive school environment for students and staff
- The district’s small DEI committee was expanded to include more voices
- Professional development focused on hiring practices
- Updated and revised the district’s hiring practices handbook with required training for any staff who are part of interview teams
- DEI committee work is shared with faculty
- DEI committee creates its vision statement
- District engaged a consultant, Generation Ready, to work with the district on an ongoing basis on DEI issues
- District administrators began analyzing data on student suspensions, attendance, etc. to identify any disparities
- K-12 staff participated in training on transgender issues
- Training for administrators and faculty with Generation Ready began
- Ongoing sessions with Generation Ready included equity walks in all buildings
- Developed action plans based on equity walks for K-5; 6-8 and 9-12
- Consultant works with English and Social Studies departments on curriculum changes to ensure materials are more inclusive
- Board of Education joins in DEI training with consultant
- Focus groups on DEI issues in district were facilitated by consultant for staff, parents, students – Summer 2020
- Bridging the Divide sessions in winter-spring continued focus group conversations into 2021
- Board adopts district Anti-Racism Policy
- BCHS launches program connecting alumni and current students in converations about race and culture
- Significant changes are made to ELA & Social Studies curriculum at BCMS/BCHS
- Board of Education establishes a District-level Equity and Inclusivity Committee with stakeholders from the wider community to serve in an advisory role to district on broader conversations and district/community relations
- Consultant is revisiting building action plans to assess progress that has been made and to recommend areas of continued work
- Professional development on equity for Aides to Students with Disabilities
- Implicit bias training for English, Social Studies and Special Ed departments
- Superintendent represents district at NYS Board of Regents meeting on DEI efforts in New York’s K-12 schools