For several decades, several groups of students have struggled with success in the Juneau School District. Now, the school board is looking at a policy that will find those educational barriers and a way to help more students achieve.
The board reviewed an equity policy on Tuesday, which has been in the works since the 2004-2005 school year. They will have a final reading of the new policy at next month's board meeting and will take action.
Sub-populations of students who frequently have low levels of student achievement are English language learners, low income, special education or Alaska Natives. The policy says the district will deliberately distribute resources to identify and eliminate bias and to assure equity of opportunity and treatment on the belief that it is fundamental to closing the instructional gap.
A plan was developed in 2007-2008 and vetted with school administrators in the spring of 2008. Public comment followed in the summer of 2009 and the policy has been in revision since.
"The Board holds itself and its employees accountable in developing ans sustaining an educational system that reduces and eliminates discrimination, in intent and in results," the policy states.
The board and superintendent will regularly review data to identify and eliminate barriers impacting students with specific groups to support the "full inclusion of students."
Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said that during the past 50 years, it's become very predictable for which students will be successful.
"We have to recognize there are some institutional barriers for some groups of our kids," he said.
However, Gelbrich felt naming specific groups in the policy is inappropriate. He said legally, if they create a list it can limit the district, whereas if they keep it general it can affect improvements for all students.
Barbara Cadiente-Nelson is a JSD employee, director of Sealaska Corp, and a member of the Douglas Indian Association (among other groups), and a parent of four Juneau-Douglas High School graduates.
Cadiente-Nelson said this policy speaks highly of the district's intention and is founded on high expectations. She said the district needs to push for high expectations to increase opportunities. Cadiente-Nelson said in 2007, there was a meeting between JSD and the University of Alaska Southeast and someone from the Bill Gates Foundation where they could have received $1 million to create rigorous coursework for Native students.
"We hit a wall of doubt," she said. "There were simply low expectations. Still today, those comments reverberate around my mind."
Cadiente-Nelson said if this policy had been in place and adhered to in 2007, the district could have had an early college high school department at JSD.
"We need to stand up as a community and really root our children on," she said.
In other business, Barbara Thurston and Kim Poole were sworn in as board members and Destiny Sargeant and JoAnne Bell-Graves were honored for their service. School Liaison Officer Blaine Hatch also was honored for eight years of service.
Board leadership changed to Sally Saddler as board president, Andi Story remains vice president and Ed Flanagan is now clerk.
Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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