Robin Gordon described her first 30 days in District 112 as a “very exciting, collaborative, amazing opportunity.” The new equity and inclusion director is ready to get to work, she said at a Feb. 8 school board workshop presentation.

Gordon, who previously worked in a similar role in District 196 in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley, said the bulk of her work in January was technical in nature. Budgets are set, benchmarks are in place.

In 2020, Eastern Carver County Schools set forth an achievement and integration plan that extends through 2023. The plan goals include academic achievement, a climate of inclusivity, and the addition of youth leadership opportunities.

Gordon detailed how each goal is being met, using comprehensive strategies to determine a course and data points as indicators of progress. Additionally, ECCS is working with the Minnesota Department of Education to ensure accountability and meet budget restraints.

Youth leadership opportunities, in which there were zero in 2020, will see a steady goal from three in 2021 to seven in 2023. Included in these opportunities are career days and college and career field trips based on student needs and requests, and participation in the Reimagine Minnesota Youth Leadership Conference.

DIRECT STUDENT SUPPORT

Of the Equity and Inclusion budget, which Director of Communications Celi Haga said is separate from the general fund budget, roughly 80% goes directly into student support.

ECCS employs six intercultural specialists and another achievement and integration specialist. Additionally, there are middle school math mentors supporting Project Achieve, an organization that helps schools maximize the academic and social, emotional, and behavioral progress and achievement of all students.

Gordon said around 12% of the budget goes to district-wide professional development, as well as restorative practices and coaching and support for building leaders.

Another part of the Equity and Inclusion tree is American Indian education. The district identifies 112 American Indian students. American Indian Education Aid program money is being used for a full-time temporary intercultural specialist position specific to American Indian education.

The American Indian Parent Advisory Council also has plans for monthly events, at this point virtually, which will include crafts and dancing. A Facebook group has also been added, Eastern Carver County Tribal Youth.

WORK IS BEING DONE

Much of the work by Gordon’s predecessor, Dr. Keith Brooks, who left the district in October 2020, was setting goals and benchmarks for the equity and inclusion directive.

A working group of 26 or so members makes up the Equity Advisory Council in District 112. The group contains parents, teachers and leaders, that “provide direction and leadership on equity issues, as well as serve as a lens to Eastern Carver County Schools in implementing change. The council will develop broad ownership of the work to become a more welcoming, culturally competent, and equitable as a school district.”

Gordon said the council met in late January. Members shared past experiences and a vision for the type of work they want to complete.

“That was the most powerful piece for me. Hearing the journeys, hearing that we are doing the work for our students,” Gordon said.

Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams, in a late December interview, was excited for the addition of Gordon. The district interviewed seven candidates.

“We hired the best one we know,” Sayles-Adams said. “I think it’s important for her to understand where we have been and the work we have done. One of the reasons why we conducted a robust interview process is because we wanted to make sure we were bringing in someone with different skill sets. I want her to share her ideas, her experiences, and what her vision is going forward.”

Now that the strategic planning stage is over, it’s all about implementation.

“We’re data-driven. We meet frequently to look at that data. We look at how are our students doing, what do we need to do differently. Where can we give them additional support so that they can be the most successful. It’s the same with equity. How can we give the best experience possible to every student and family,” Sayles-Adams said in December.

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