The Ceres School Board adopted a resolution to address diversity, equality and racism in Ceres Unified School District during last Thursday’s meeting.
“The trustees of the Ceres Unified School District are committed to provide an excellent education for every student,” CUSD officials said in an explanatory statement prior to the resolution being passed. “The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with a history of racially based violence in our nation, have raised awareness of racial injustice and inequity in all communities. Ceres Unified School District is not immune from disparate outcomes linked to race and ethnicity, including but not limited to academic achievement, exclusionary discipline and graduation rates. The trustees of the Ceres Unified School District are committed to fostering policies that diminish and eradicate institutional or structural racism and promote the principles of racial justice and equity.”
The board approved the resolution with a unanimous vote.
“During the 2019-20 school year, CUSD initiated an equity program that focuses on meeting the needs of individual students to ensure a quality education for all,” said CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel. “While there has been measurable progress toward that goal, we recognize that this is a long-term process. This resolution is evidence of the Board’s commitment to and prioritization of that important work.”
“It’s something that needed to happen with all the things happening in the world,” President Mike Welsh said. “People are protesting because they want to be heard.”
“The country has serious issues,” he added. “We don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want to be proactive. Everybody needs to be treated equally and with respect. Everybody should have a voice. Communication is the most important thing we can do. We have to be responsive to our students, teachers, staff and families.”
“We want to create a culture in our district that’s inclusive and diverse for all students and staff,” satte Trustee Lourdes Perez. “We’re hoping to expand opportunities at an equal level in instruction, support services and everything we do as a district. We’ll look at our policies on an annual basis and see if any improvements need to be made.”
The School Board re-emphasized its commitment to the intensive equity training that was initiated last school year and that a report on the progress, long term plan and sustainability of this program will be delivered to the Board by the end of the school year with subsequent reports scheduled for future years.
CUSD will establish a policy that requires all new employees to participate in introductory anti-bias and cultural responsiveness training before working with students. Existing staff will also receive such training as well. The policy will be presented to the board for a first reading no later than Dec. 31.
Siegel has been directed to meet with students from the comprehensive high schools and alternative education site to solicit student experiences, input and ideas for addressing equity and racism, and that the outcome of these meetings, including any recommendations for policy changes, be communicated to the board by the end of the 2020-21 school year.
District staff will conduct a review of hiring practices and outcomes and present findings, including any recommendations for policy changes, to the Board by Jan. 31, 2021.
“We have a large population of Latino students in our district,” Perez said. “We’re hoping to expand our hiring practices to bring in high-quality teachers and staff that represent the diverse ethnicities of our students.”
District staff will also conduct a feasibility study of incorporating an ethnic studies requirement for high school and report to the Board by Sept. 30, 2021.
“There’s a lot of history that’s not taught to students,” Perez said. “We want to broaden what instruction they’re receiving. We want to incorporate communities of color.”
“The whole thing (resolution) is geared towards listening to people,” said Welsh. “We care about everybody.”