Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 1 – 2020-21
District Leaders:
of Equity Work
Northshore School District leads by example, incorporating equity efforts districtwide
Srinivas Khedam
Assistant Principal, Lockwood Elementary, Northshore SD
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Ensuring School Safety, and Closing the Gap
“Equity is very hard work!” “It is heavy work!” “It is life-long work!” “It is collaborative work!”
This is what we hear from people involved in equity work in schools and other organizations. This is because some tasks are like that. Individuals who are committed to equity work take up this work no matter how hard it may be. Gandhi, Dr. King, Mandela, and many leaders committed to the equity work because of their desire and passion to make a difference. Though they faced many challenges, they never gave up and endured! That is why they became great leaders of equity.
Equity work should be in the heart of everything that happens in school districts — in classrooms, cafeterias, play grounds, clubs, PTA, transportation, human resources, technology, maintenance, facilities, and in every department in the school district. Equity work will not be meaningful when it is done separately. Equity work is not the responsibility of an equity department. It is everybody’s responsibility! Every leader in the district must be committed to equity work and make it an integral part of the work done by their department.
For equity work to happen at every place in the entire school district, there should be language in the district’s strategic plan and the mission statement of every school and every department. Leaders in different capacities should be committed to the work in their daily life rather than doing it as a task against which a check mark is placed. Most importantly, leaders in the top tier at the district must be committed to equity work. They should communicate the importance of equity work to all stakeholders regularly. When people know that their leaders care, everyone tends to embrace an initiative. This is very much evident in the Northshore School District.
Equity work is not the responsibility of an equity department. It is everybody’s responsibility!
At Northshore School District equity work is in the heart of everything that we do. Equity is in the district’s Strategic Action Plan. Equity is in every school’s action plan. Every school has an equity team ranging from three members to 20 members. Some schools have leaders and team members who champion the work. Whereas some other schools are learning to do the work. All of them have good intentions and are determined to do that work. However, they are at different levels with their work.
In weekly messages to the staff, and during all meetings with different stakeholders, the superintendent conveys the importance of equity work. The superintendent always sees everything from the equity lenses. During the monthly principals’ meeting, the district’s Equity and Diversity team members have an opportunity to guide principals with the equity work in their schools. This year, the district’s Leadership Strategy Office has developed four leadership strands in which all school and district administrators are expected to participate to improve their leadership practices. They are: Leadership for Equity & Inclusion; Leadership for Equity & Innovation; Leadership for Equity & Inspiration; and Leadership for Equity & Instructional Improvement. All administrators are expected to participate in at least two leadership academies and learn ways to integrate equity in their leadership practice. Additionally, administrators are expected to allocate time for equity work during staff meetings and principal directed days in their buildings. The goal is to make equity conscious practice of leaders and teachers.
The equity and diversity team developed a framework with guidelines to the principals and teachers for incorporating equity practices in their schools. Additionally, principals and teachers are provided with a range of resources that they could use for each of the four domains. Equity leaders from every school gather at least two times a year to receive guidance in leading equity work in their building as directed by the district equity and diversity team. Though there is so much work to be done, empowering school equity leads has been very helpful to change practices at the building level. Depending upon the time and energy of committee members, every school made progress at different levels.
Progress in any area is possible when passionate people work collaboratively with a common purpose. Their work becomes stronger and meaningful when the work is supported by the leaders on the top tier. Good work always has frustrations, disappointments, moments of hopelessness, and despair, and equity is no exception to this rule. Those who are involved in the equity work must support each other and get energy from each other. Equity work cannot be done in isolation. Unfortunately, many people are still not open to equity work, are hesitant to start and lead the work. It is a new territory to them because some regard it as a sensitive area to get involved in it. That is the reason why those who are involved in the work must realize that they have so much heavy lifting to do. With perseverance and hard work, equity will certainly be valued, embraced, and appreciated by, if not everyone, at least by many people who are authentic in serving all students. Because of all these reasons, equity work needs cheerleaders from top to the bottom. If you are one of those who believes in the work, please get involved in the work in any capacity or at least become a cheerleader for those who are doing the work.
Please become cheerleaders of equity work! If you are a leader, be the leader of cheerleaders!
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Washington Principal | Volume 1 – 2020-21