For several years, John Horman, Equity Committee Chair, had organized a student diversity day. He, along with other members of the equity committee realized the value of bringing awareness of cultures to our student body. In the fall of 2012 the equity committee decided that this type of event would be just as beneficial for staff members of the school district. With the support and approval of administration, a half day of professional development was allotted and the district was able to attain the funding required to hold this training.
Because of the partnership with the RtI Center, not only Northern Hills Elementary, but other members of the district knew that culturally responsive practices was a large focus for the equity committee and equity day. Cristina Sanchez-Lopez from the Illinois Resource Center, who is knowledgeable about diverse populations in an educational setting, was sought out to be the keynote speaker. Cristina has a background in English language learning, special education, and multilingual education. Because of these factors she was deemed to be an excellent fit for the first district-wide equity day.
Based on the structure of the student diversity day held at Onalaska High School in the past, breakout sessions were also included in the staff development day. The equity committee compiled a list of both specific cultural topics and more general topics related to diversity in education (see artifact number one for a look at the first survey). The day was based on the needs and interests of the entire staff. The survey was the equity committee's way to involve everyone and get each of their opinions. With the results of the survey, they set out to find local experts on the chosen specific and general cultural fields. There were many willing professionals from our nearby universities.
After organizing the day with a keynote and two breakout sessions, the equity committee decided that the participants would benefit from a processing session with questions provided to them by the equity committee (see artifact number two for the last page of the equity day booklet). The first district-wide equity day took place on Monday, January 21, 2013. After sending out a survey to the participants, a lot was learned about what changes needed to be made, and what things were found to be valuable. The next year the equity day remained very similar. The keynote speaker changed, some of the breakout sessions stayed the same, some sessions change, and the staff was still given a period of time for processing what they had learned that day. One big difference in Equity Day 2014 was the addition of having staff members of the district serve as breakout speakers.
In the fall of 2014, the equity committee, with survey results from the staff, changed the structure of the day. The first big change was creating two tracks of breakout sessions – one set for the elementary school staff members and one set for the middle school and high school staff. The second big change resulted from a committee member finding a diagram that categorized the subsections of culturally responsive education (see artifact number three for the CRP diagram). The committee used this diagram to create five sessions based on the following subsections:
- identity achievement
- equity and excellence
- developmental appropriateness
- teaching the whole child
- student teacher relationships (Brown-Jeffy and Cooper)
With this, they decided that it would be best if there was not a keynote. Previously, the staff had voiced their opinions on preferring the small group breakout session versus the large group keynote. Also, instead of doing two sixty-minute breakout sessions that the staff could choose from, five breakout sessions (on two different tracks) were provided that every member would attend one time in a group rotation (see artifact number four for the schedule of equity day 2015). Last but not least, the staff showed incredible capacity-building by taking the lead on the breakout sessions with a majority of sessions in 2015 being led by staff members! The equity committee received the most positive survey results from this newly restructured equity day!