PLSAS District Services Center

The Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools District Services Center, 4540Tower St. SE in Prior Lake.

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board held a study session (originally to be held on Nov. 8 and then later on Nov. 22) ahead of its December meeting that covered a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion topics.

PLSAS officials presented the district’s E-12 Educational Equity and Excellence Plan, which focuses on the implementation of culturally responsive teaching strategies and learning environments, family engagement strategies and professional development strategies.

During the meeting, Superintendent Teri Staloch said that there is much work to be done and the district has been working closely with students and student leaders on how to make things better.

“While we’ve been engaged in district-wide equity work for the past several years, we’ve always known that equity work is ongoing. We know we have much more to do, evidenced by our achievement gaps,” said Staloch. “But more importantly, the voices of our students who are telling us that the work we’re doing is not making the impact that they need for their lived experiences in our schools. We’ve heard some of their experiences and concerns and we’ve also heard from students some possible action steps in making things better.”

Equity and Excellence Plan

Over the past six years, PLSAS staff developed strategies to build a plan framework with the goal of ensuring all students and staff feel a sense of belonging and feel welcomed as well as having the tools they need to be successful.

The planning led to the creation of an Equity and Advisory Council. The purpose of the group is to ensure that the district is examining ways to make the community more inclusive to all regardless of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or any other targeted group.

Recently, PLSAS partnered with Jordan and Shakopee districts to run a discussion series called Caring and Committed Conversations which consists of counselors, students, staff and community members having open conversations on certain school issues. The latest Caring and Committed Conversation dealt with the racist video that went viral.

PLSAS staff have also received training and resources to enhance staff data literacy, added a District Strategic Direction to highlight social and emotional learning and created the Laker Learning Compass, which is focused on providing learning experiences that are more student-centered and student-driven than teacher-directed. PLSAS also collaborated with other school districts to support the alignment of Reimagine Minnesota strategies into the district work.

In addition, PLSAS has implemented The Voices Framework to honor student voices and provide professional development and the latest move that included passing a school board resolution that stated the district’s commitment to equity and inclusion.

Who are the

students of PLSAS?Sam Ouk, director of equity and inclusion, presented several statistics of the PLSAS student body.

Ouk said according to the Minnesota Department of Education, 77.2% of students in PLSAS were white, 5.6% Hispanic, 0.7% American Indian, 5.2% Asian, 5.7% Black and 5.6% were two or more races.

“Looking at the data pieces, one might say Prior Lake is not a very diverse district,” said Ouk. “However, in Prior Lake, we have over 60 languages spoken in our district. The top five being Spanish, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese and Khmer — which is the name of the language of Cambodian speakers.”

Ouk said taking a closer look, Prior Lake offers even more diversity.

“Along with that diversity, we also have 133 American Indian students in the district. We have students from all over the world from six of the seven continents and we also have one of the largest Russian speaking populations in the state,” said Ouk.

Dave Brown, Bridges Area Learning Center administrator, also presented the district’s focus of equity work over the past six years.

“We began prioritizing equity work six years ago with culturally and linguistically responsive teaching strategies for all staff. Since then we have also engaged in an umbrella of programming to to support equity and diversity in our schools,” said Brown. “That includes social-emotional learning, elevating student voices and conducting student engagements around these issues.”