• Valentine's Transformation

    Posted by AUBREY RANSON on 2/17/2021

    Two Hearts

     

    As our hearts prepare for each February and the expectations surrounding Valentine’s Day, we are immersed with messaging about being a part of something, being in partnership, being included, being in love.  I’m curious, what if our relationships to our community were marketed as strongly to us as the ties to love are around Valentine’s Day?

    Social bonds are the center of human existence.  We need each other in fundamental ways to ensure survival.  This need requires us to bond together, to keep community so in times of plenty and scarcity, we are enriched. Peter Block, author of Community: A Structure of Belonging, states “if we can get people together in the room, in the right context and with a few simple ground rules, the wisdom to create a future or solve a problem is almost always in the room.”  Yet, in our pandemic, electronically connected world, the community bonds we need so desperately are frayed and on the cusp of collapse. 

    It is in our conversations that our transformations happen.  The idea of keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer has been used as a manipulation technique to know your enemy’s methods.  However, what if bringing those we disagree with closer means not only knowing their ways, but also a way to know their hearts.  That the heart work of sitting belly to belly with someone immediately creates an alternative future.  It is in an invitation to sit in conversation with those who represent that ideal community, that allows for an opportunity for change.

    During the month of February, with the simultaneous focus of both capitalistic love and pandemic survival, listen deeply to the needs of your community of how you can help create a future of partnership through authentic invitation. You might be surprised at how much love already exists. 

    ~Aubrey  

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  • In the Time of KIng

    Posted by ALEXIS KNOX-MILLER on 1/27/2021

    MLK and Family A little over a week ago, we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have been pondering his words, his life, and his death since last Monday.  Dr. King died when he was 39 years old and I am often in awe of how much he accomplished at his young age.  Dr. King was also born ten years before my maternal grandmother and ten years after both of my paternal grandparents.  I often wonder if he felt the constraints of the time in which he was born, lived, and changed the fabric of this country.  Time.  In this moment in our country and our school district, time is something I think about a lot.  The chronology of how a citizenry progresses and moves towards the ideals it espouses has been on my mind when I lay down and when I rise.  Time.  It feels like something we wrestle against.  Something we try to beat.  We never know if the time is right or if we have enough time.  Sometimes time feels like a self-imposed prison.   Dr. King once said:

    “Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

    Both our qualitative and quantitative data show that it is past time for us to act.  It is time for our community to reflect deeply upon our personal identities and histories.  It is time to acknowledge our biases.  It is time to tell the truth about how our biases have created unnatural outcomes.  It is time to remove barriers. It is time for justice.  The time is now. 

    In District 11, it is time for us to embrace our collective core values.  Our strategic plan states that we believe “in the INHERENT worth of EVERY individual and the POWER of equitable practices to UNLEASH potential.”  I am proud that we are beginning to take the steps necessary to be a school district that serves its entire community well.  I ask that you lean in and join us on this incredible journey, because as Dr. King said, “the time is always ripe to do right.”

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  • In Such a Time As This

    Posted by ALEXIS KNOX-MILLER on 1/8/2021

    Helen Hunt Falls    I spent the morning hiking with my children.  I wanted to get the nerves out.  I was waiting anxiously to hear if I was selected to represent Colorado Springs School District 11 as the first Director of Equity and Inclusion in the district and the region.  As my children and I pulled into our garage from a morning of hiking, my phone began to ring.  It was a district number.  My heart stopped.  My children were uncharacteristically quiet.  They knew that this position, this work, the first-ever equity policy the region has ever seen was my passion.  They knew how badly I wanted this.  They knew how seriously I took the responsibility of fundamentally changing the odds for ALL students during my tenure as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, dean, and assistant principal.  The news came.  My heart stopped.  I would be D11’s first Director of Equity and Inclusion.  After a bit of excitement and whooping and yelling from my children, the weight of the responsibility of this role began to set in. 

    The date was May 28, 2020.  It was three days after the world watched George Floyd murdered in the streets of Minneapolis and two days after people took to the streets demanding that something be changed.  Truth moment:  I was terrified.  I was nervous.  I was unsure of what I had agreed to.  A woman of faith, I headed to my prayer closet and was reminded that I was chosen for such a time as this.  I was chosen to lead in a time where the stakes could not be any higher.  I was chosen to ensure that D11 actualized and operationalized the work of  our equity policy.  And in so doing, I would be able to connect with my bigger passion and purpose:  ensuring that all students regardless of race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. would have access to a high-quality education and have equitable educational outcomes (achievement, discipline, programming).

    Every measure that we have, both nationally and locally, points to disturbing and all-too-often predictable trends for our students.  We can effectively tell how well a student is going to do based on their race, zip code, and the socio-economic status of their parents.  Simply put, schools across this country are not serving all students well.  Ensuring that equity is the through-line for everything we do is the only way to reverse these trends.  The work that D11 has committed to will change the odds for all students in our district.  It is an exciting time.  There is so much work being done. 

    • In August, I connected with many of our district schools to introduce them to the equity policy and the timeline for the work ahead.
    • In September, a panel and I carefully selected the members of our District Equity Leadership Team (DELT). We wanted to be sure that these leaders of equity would mirror the diversity found in our district.  They have been meeting since September.  They are currently working on purpose statements and goals that will move our district towards equity. 
    • In September, we also received notice that we were chosen to be a part of the Bridges Collaborative (Century Foundation). This collaborative connects schools with public sector organizations to tackle the issue of integration and how schools can actualize and realize full racial and socio-economic integration. 
    • In October, our district hired the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to begin our districtwide equity audit. AIR is highly respected for their work in the field of equity (air.org). This audit is carefully examining the following priority areas:
      • Human Resources—How is the district recruiting and retaining a diverse staff?
      • Allocation—Is the district allocating human and financial resources equitably?
      • Professional Development—In what ways are we supporting staff? Is it equitable?  Are we supporting staff to do the work of equity?
      • Curriculum and Instruction—How are we ensuring that all students have their histories and identities honored in our district?
      • Enrollment—What environmental inequities are aiding in our declining enrollment?
    • In November, I created a small tactical team of mostly teachers. This team is called the CARE team.  CARE stands for collaborative action research for equity.  This team is being trained in Courageous Conversations and Equity Visits.  They will take this training and apply it to their school sites.
    • In December, our consultants began a deep data analysis of all districtwide data. We also began the process of soliciting parents, staff, and students to be a part of our focus groups for our equity audit.

    I am so excited about what 2021 will bring!  We are busy ensuring that we realize equity in our district.  This work is a journey.  This work requires all of us to look deeply within ourselves, to be reflective of our practices, and to ask in what ways we may have contributed to the inequities in our current school system.  We are ready for this work and I am ready to lead this work in such a time as this. 

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