On June 23, the Healdsburg Unified School District (HUSD) reached another milestone in its long and ongoing journey toward creating an equitable district and a welcoming and inclusive school experience for all students and community members.
During the Wednesday regular school board meeting, the HUSD school board of trustees unanimously approved two new board/districtwide policies, an equity policy and an anti-racism policy.
The board also approved a new district mission, vision and values statement that embraces a vision for equality.
The district has been working closely with the Acosta Educational Partnership on the development of the equity policy over the course of several school board workshops and reviews of sample district policies and, on May 4, the board of trustees participated in a board workshop to refine the draft equity policy.
On June 16 during a special board meeting, HUSD Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel presented the draft to the board of trustees and a few minor revisions were made.
The equity policy states that the board of trustees believes that diversity exists among the district’s community, staff, students and parents and is integral to the district’s vision, mission and goals.
It also states that addressing the needs of the district’s most marginalized learners requires recognition of the inherent value of diversity and acknowledgment that “educational excellences requires a commitment to equity in service, support and opportunities provided to students and the resulting outcomes.”
The policy acknowledges that historic and present day societal factors contribute to disparities and states that the district believes it is a moral imperative to overcome inequities and injustices.
“Above all, we seek to end the predictive value of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender and gender identity on student achievement, school experience and success through prioritized and intentional efforts for equity and anti-racism,” according to the policy. “We commit to intentional, substantive, measurable and lasting change at the primary and secondary levels. Additionally, we pledge that equity will be used as a fundamental lens for all decision-making. This policy represents a long-term, practical commitment to build and continually improve the Healdsburg Unified School District that educates and serves the people of Healdsburg.”
The policy also lays out 11 different measures to promote equity in district programs and activities.
The district also worked with the Acosta group for the development of the anti-racism board policy.
The policy states that the school board and the district rejects all forms of racism and are committed to eliminating racism and discrimination from the “hearts and minds of individuals and from our institutions, organizations and communities.”
It also states that the district recognizes that actions need to be intentional and transformational in order to achieve true equity and eliminate racism and discrimination.
“The district is committed to eradicate institutional racism and institutional bias of any kind, including implicit or unintentional biases and prejudices that affect student achievement,” according to the policy text.
Additionally, the policy lists five principles that the school board will commit to and lays out an accountability plan and definitions of anti-racism, individual racism, institutional racism and systemic racism.
School board president Aracely Romo-Flores said she is proud to have these policies in place and Vanden Heuvel noted that there is still much work to be done around equity.
The district’s English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) and District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) for each school site said they’d also like to see an ethnic studies course for students K-12 all the way through, not just one elective course in high school.
The policy approvals also come about a month after the district announced plans to launch an independent investigation into concerns received from Roseland School District alumni regarding alleged cases of racism, inequity, favoritism and other forms of discrimination that took place in the Roseland district while new Healdsburg High Principal Amy Jones-Kerr worked as the Roseland superintendent.
“We would like to have personnel there (in the district) who are empathetic with the difficulties that students are facing and that the parents are facing as well. The leadership workshop is something we are requesting because during this process — one in which we were questioning the superintendent in terms of the hiring of Amy — as parents and as students, we felt unsure about the best process and how to advocate or request what we needed to feel safe,” DELAC member Lizbeth Perez said during the ELAC report. “Many of the concerns that we share in meetings with the superintendent is that we don’t believe the hiring was transparent. What she did in Roseland cannot be measured and that lack of response to requests from students is something that should be addressed.”
Kerr resigned from the Roseland district in November 2020. Her resignation came about a month after racism allegations were raised by Roseland School District alumni and families at an October 2020 school board meeting. Kerr said the allegations were not the reason for her departure.
In an interview with The Healdsburg Tribune in June, Jones-Kerr said she is proud of the work that she did in Roseland.
“If you are really committed to working for the betterment of the students and the families — and it must be highlighted that most of us are Latinos in Healdsburg schools — we would like to see representation in the board and in the personnel. We cannot improve as a district if there’s no empathy of the needs of the students and their families,” Perez said.
Mission, vision and values statement
The school board also approved a new district mission, vision and values statement.
The new vision statement reads:
“Each school is an inspiring and challenging environment where all staff and students value and celebrate diversity. Every student and family is unconditionally respected. All students are thriving, collaborative, critical thinkers, developing a love of learning and demonstrating kindness and compassion to all.”
School board vice president Mike Potmesil said he’d like to share the new mission and vision statement with students, parents, staff and all HUSD community members.
Vanden Heuvel said he’ll be sending out a letter to the HUSD community that discusses the new policies and mission statement and will provide links to where folks can read the policies and statement.
To view the mission and values statement in its entirety, click here.