HomeBlocksFront-GridLCUSD Reports Progress on DEI Initiative

LCUSD Reports Progress on DEI Initiative

First published in the July 7 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Unified School District recently presented a progress report on the first year of its diversity, equity and inclusion initiative to the Governing Board, which came away pleased and optimistic for what’s to come.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette informed the board during a June 28 meeting of the district’s DEI Oversight Committee’s efforts, so far, in the first of a three-year implementation plan.
The committee, consisting of community members, LCUSD staff, board members and students, met six times this past academic year and guided the district in its DEI efforts.
“We saw cohesion over the course of the year develop on that committee because people were respectful,” Sinnette said. “They talked through issues. We grappled with some really tough topics. I was just really proud to be part of that committee.”
Some of the highlights of the work done included hiring DEI experts and consultants, administering surveys to students, employees and parents, professional training, educating parents and reviewing the curriculum to make it more diverse.
Sinnette expressed pride when speaking of the district’s work to improve human-resources interviewing practices, “making sure that we were constantly mindful of casting a wide net, hiring the best in the field, engaging in interview panel training,” she said. “We’re really looking at best practices across the HR spectrum so that we could be very confident that our HR practices were reflective of DEI principles.”
Another important highlight mentioned was the responsive teaching plans, which have helped students transition back to a normal school day after remote learning and limited in-person instruction in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Sinnette, establishing restorative practices — an alternative to traditional disciplining of children that focuses on building a sense of community and strengthening relationships between students — at each school site was successful in the first year of implementing DEI and helped students learn from their mistakes.
“When you talk about restorative practices, it’s really about thinking when students make poor decisions or there are errors in judgment, you take a step back and really make sure it’s a learning opportunity,” said Sinnette, who added that such practices incorporate forgiveness and can help restore a climate of care.
The presentation also featured a snapshot of results from the survey conducted to give the board an idea of how students, parents and teachers felt about the DEI process.
Among students, 17% did not agree that school valued individual differences, 19% replied that their school does not promote the students’ sense of belonging and 12% felt their school did not take effective action to promote the safety and security of students.
Also, 37% of students believe their principal doesn’t give out disciplinary consequences consistently and 23% do not feel their school is invested in preparing students to thrive in a diverse world.
Though the data seems to indicate that the majority of LCUSD students are content with the district’s DEI initiative, Sinnette said that she and her staff will work for those who responded negatively to the survey.
There was also concern regarding some of the responses from teachers, staff and community members. The adult surveys included questions similar to those given to students but had an additional choice of a “neutral” response.
In the question asking if they felt the district made progress in its first year of implementing DEI, 56% of community members responded “neutral” and 41% responded positively.
“I do think there’s a discussion to be had about the term ‘neutral’ in the survey itself because I think that’s an ambiguous term,” said board member Josh Epstein. “Neutral, right now, falls in the middle between agreeing and disagreeing… If you can read it multiple ways, then you’re not getting authentic survey data.”
Hugo Tzec, chair of the district’s DEI oversight committee, said the “neutral” responses could indicate a lack of engagement between stakeholders and LCUSD and education of DEI and the district’s implementation of the initiative.
“I think the more we promote it, the more we explain it, the more we’re not afraid to discuss DEI for the fear that it could be politicized because it’s not a political issue,” Tzec said. “The more we get away from that fear … the more people are going to understand it and not be ignorant about it.”
Tzec also suggested that more students be added to the committee, which coincides with one of the district’s many DEI goals of empowering students through training and strategic involvement.
There is still much work to be done, but the board seems content with the committee’s work, so far, and expects the members to play a role in guiding the district as it updates policies and curriculum.
“In the end, we made some progress and lived up to what we’re trying to accomplish,” said board member Joe Radabaugh. “So, I think the [oversight committee] is well positioned to play an important role in our journey.”


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