‘We need to get it together’: New Park Hill school board wants to focus on equity and inclusion | KCUR 89.3

As a Park Hill large university junior, Shereka Barnes was denied a role in a play. She stated her drama instructor explained to her the university couldn’t handle the controversy of a Black woman kissing a white boy.

Now, 30 a long time later on, Barnes sits on the faculty board for Park Hill University District — one of two new members elected in April.

But the drama teacher’s reviews have stuck with her. Her two daughters — now in college — also experienced incidents of bias in Park Hill educational institutions.

Barnes’ history with the district has certain her that its racial justice issues go much deeper than the current incidents that manufactured the news.

“Everybody needs to act like a great deal of the things which is heading on now is new, but I consider the big difference is that it is just (on) social media and extra recorded,” she explained.

But Barnes hasn’t supplied up on Park Hill’s prospective, and there are symptoms the district is setting up momentum about equity and inclusion.

“Current occasions in modern society and in our nation and in our neighborhood have absolutely confirmed to us that we have increased do the job to do,” explained Terri Deayon, the district’s director of access, inclusion and family members engagement. “But it is been encouraging to see our work and the factors that we’ve been carrying out this calendar year begin to choose condition.”

Barnes and Daryl Terwilleger, the other recently elected college board member, both equally highlighted problems of variety and belonging in their campaigns. They each individual gained much more than 22% of the votes, beating out the other six candidates.

Terwilleger declined an job interview for this tale.

Educating Park Hill college neighborhood on serving to, not hurting

Several incidents at Park Hill have garnered media notice.

In February, a trainer was allowed to retire right after he repeated the N-term to a pupil. In September, college students circulated a petition to provide back slavery.

Other space districts and non-public educational institutions have also designed the information for identical difficulties, like instructors employing slurs or earning racist feedback.

But the district wishes to tackle significantly less community examples of bias as very well.

Barnes explained moms and dads explain to her stories about inappropriate opinions designed to them or their small children, like a trainer preemptively stressing about a youthful Black pupil causing difficulties.

She has some stories of her possess, as well.

In one particular situation, a instructor did not intervene when a college student told her daughter her impression didn’t matter due to the fact she was Black.

A counselor questioned why Barnes’ other daughter required to get Sophisticated Placement biology. When she defined she needed to be a health practitioner, the counselor claimed there weren’t several medical doctors who looked like her.

“She arrived to me, and I experienced to go up there and say, like, ‘Who are you to discourage a university student who would like to be a little something or do something with herself?’” Barnes stated.

Her daughter acquired the highest grade in the course and is now a pre-med pupil, Barnes reported, but she’s fearful some pupils really don’t share their activities or really don’t have aid to address them.

Deayon — who spoke with The Beacon together with her fellow co-chairs of the Park Hill Range, Fairness, Inclusion and Belonging Council — explained the district is doing work to educate individuals on how remarks can damage people or make them really feel they really do not belong.

Examples incorporate inquiring to touch someone’s hair or expressing surprise that anyone speaks English effectively.

June LeBlanc, a council co-chair and mum or dad of three in the district, stated college students aren’t constantly encouraged to be respectful of some others by means of pop society and social media.

“What we want to do is to make sure that when pupils appear in by way of individuals doorways, when instructors come in to teach, when suppliers come into the doorways, they experience like they can be their reliable selves, they really do not have to really feel like they have to set on or they have to demonstrate themselves,” she mentioned.

“If I am an African American 12-yr-outdated and I informed my teacher, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ I should not have my teacher say, ‘Well, are you positive you can do that?’”

As an alternative, the teacher really should react with knowing and refer the scholar to opportunities and means, LeBlanc claimed. 


Dominick Williams


The Beacon

Park Hill faculty board member Daryl Terwilleger (middle) reacts in the course of a conference May well 12 at the district offices in Kansas Town. Terwilleger was elected in April.

Danny Todtfeld, a council co-chair and principal at Prairie Place Elementary, reported young children cannot aim on their schoolwork if they have to dedicate two-thirds of their brain energy to assimilating.

“We just want to make absolutely sure (that) when young children come to faculty, nothing provides more strain that stops them from learning,” he stated.

The commission strives to address all styles of diversity, which includes gender, sexual choice, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, skill and language, Deayon explained. 

Elisa Neilson, a parent who founded Park Hill Moms and dads for Public Colleges and is component of a mother or father DEIB council at Park Hill South, reported LGBTQ learners need to have specific target.

“They’re obtaining mistreated by (the) legislature … social media, just about everywhere,” she reported. “I think it’s vital for our universities to make sure that they come to feel risk-free.”

One wrestle for people doing range function in the district is pushback from some community members.

“When we sit down and truly have, like, a single-on-a single conversations with folks, no 1 can definitely argue with what we’re undertaking,” Todtfeld explained. “We’re striving to make a area where all pupils experience safe and sound, all pupils are accepted and all college students are highly regarded.”

But he’s turn out to be much more aware of techniques the district’s actions could be mischaracterized.

For case in point, when mothers and fathers discovered that elementary college students had appear out at LGBTQ, some of them thought the district was training young small children about sexual choices.

That is not genuine, Todtfeld mentioned. But it is legitimate that LGBTQ learners and students with LGBTQ moms and dads need to have to experience like they belong.

Tracie Rezzelle, a mum or dad of two district college students who worked on Terwilleger’s marketing campaign and also supported Barnes, explained the election uncovered to her the resistance experiencing the district. Some candidates and their supporters equated Black record with important race idea or referred to DEI efforts as “reverse racism.”

But Rezzelle claimed she sees the election outcomes as a hopeful indicator.

“I also imagine that there are numerous folks who realize that we have a great deal of function to do,” she stated.

Deayon claimed she was encouraged by how informed and engaged voters ended up all over DEI subject areas.

“I think our disaster situations have revealed our neighborhood that we have got do the job to do and area for expansion,” she stated. “And so consequently, I think that was a large and major factor in this current school board election, as significantly as what neighborhood customers were seeking for and listening for.”

How improve happens

Deayon mentioned the district has created advancements linked to DEI in excess of the several years, but that the initiatives now are a lot more arranged and intentional.

For example, just after knowing the gifted method wasn’t assorted, the district worked to transform that — not by lowering the IQ criteria but by inviting a broader pool of students to examination for the program and making certain the exams weren’t biased.

Park Hill also incorporated fairness and entry into its strategic prepare, worked with consultants and neighborhood associates, and is eliminating boundaries to students accessing systems — for example, by supplying transportation and getting rid of costs.

The district Accessibility and Inclusion site also notes that it’s doing work on bettering personnel variety and removing disparities in willpower.

A Beacon report past drop identified the district referred Black students to legislation enforcement at much more than 2 times the rate for white pupils, even though it reported no arrests.

A district timeline of access and inclusion attempts begins in 2015 and will become much more comprehensive with Deayon’s employing in mid-2021. A person of her preliminary jobs was to commence assembling the DEIB Council.

The council has inspired broader participation by keeping forums for the neighborhood, workers and college students.

Ryann Banks, the student co-chair on the council, stated the boards are a extensive attempt to enhance.

“We’re understanding from incidents that have happened in the previous, and things that are coming up now,” they reported. “This isn’t just one thing that, ‘Oh, here’s an incident, let’s just develop a little something to deal with that up.’ No, this is a element of us. We are developing as a district.”

1 development rising in conversations is that men and women want extra varied team.

Barnes claimed she desires the district to established targets and targets to make improvements to instructor and team variety.

There is a lack of teachers of colour nationwide and statewide, but she advised Park Hill could perform on recruiting its have learners and serving to to guidance their instruction if they return to the district as lecturers.

Barnes, who’s serving a a few-year phrase, said the district can’t hold off transferring from gathering input to enacting serious transform.

“The point of me telling my tale is not to make people truly feel undesirable,” Barnes mentioned. “The stage of me telling my story is to say, search, this has been likely on for 30 many years. We require to get it together.”

The story was initially revealed by The Kansas Town Beacon.