March 2, 2020
Dear Kyrene Community,
I want to begin this month’s message by acknowledging the concern in our community over the global spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Last week, Kyrene School District sent a message home to families outlining an initial plan of action in preparation of a possible outbreak in our schools. This message, along with further information from Maricopa County, can be found on the emergency preparedness page of the Kyrene website: www.kyrene.org/911.
Thank you to all who have emailed me so far with questions and concerns. I am taking your suggestions directly to the Kyrene Emergency Management Team. We will continue to keep you informed as our plans develop.
Equity in Education
A call to action
As we approach the final quarter of the 2019-20 school year, I have been reflecting on Kyrene’s commitment to equity, the work so far, and the powerful momentum that will carry us forward.
The success of our students is at the core of the Kyrene Mission and Vision. Our vision is for Kyrene Kids to become the problem-solvers, creators, and visionaries of tomorrow; and our mission statement declares that we will inspire a passion for learning, leading and achieving transformative life outcomes. To truly ensure those transformative life outcomes, we must address the discipline, achievement and opportunity gaps that exist for students. In Kyrene, we are addressing those gaps through our commitment to equity in education.
The purpose of our equity work is to teach and lead in such a way that more of our students, with their unique backgrounds and experiences, are achieving at a higher level, and engaging in learning at a deeper level. In an equitable education system, every individual student has access to the resources and supports needed to succeed regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background or income. If equality is “everyone gets the same,” equity is “everyone gets what they need” to succeed.
Follow our work
The elimination of opportunity gaps that lead to educational disparity has been identified as a high priority, and it is reflected in the goals and objectives of Kyrene’s Strategic Plan 2022. We believe it is important to remove as many barriers to learning as possible. Through this work, if we are able to improve student engagement, to provide instruction that is more responsive and to give our teachers and staff the training and tools to meet the unique needs of their students, then it will be a sound investment of our resources.
We have recently launched a new page on our website, at www.kyrene.org/equity, to outline Kyrene’s call to action and to demonstrate how equity will be an umbrella that impacts everything we do. It is about how we teach, how we allocate resources, how we apply discipline and how we recruit new teachers and staff.
This year's equity training is focused on the development of tone and trust and culturally responsive teaching amongst educators, so that we may have courageous conversations about how to teach in the support of all learners.
More than two decades of research across a wide range of disciplines—developmental psychology, economics, and brain science—demonstrates that learning has social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions. When the brain encounters information, it searches for and makes connections to what is personally relevant and meaningful. That relevance and meaning is based on an individual’s cultural frame of reference.
Part of Kyrene’s equity work involves professional development for educators and staff, to help ensure cultural responsiveness in our teaching methods. An example of culturally responsive instruction might be the inclusion of Native American authors in a unit on literature, or it could be word problems in a math unit that contain scenarios that are relevant to a student’s background.
It will take time to see the training now underway fully embedded in our practices across all schools and classrooms, and it will take even more time to see the measurable changes in our achievement and discipline gaps.
However, there are already promising signs. Kyrene middle schools have been focusing on restorative justice, a powerful approach to discipline that focuses on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders. The best gift we can give to students is how to solve problems and restore relationships that have been harmed from hurtful actions. Early data for the 2019-20 school year shows discipline referrals are down across all middle schools, and while it is too early to directly connect the data to our new practices, it is extremely encouraging.
It is my wish for the community to feel this same sense of hope in this work and to share our vision for the future. So, coming in May, Kyrene School District will be holding a comprehensive showcase of Kyrene’s Equity, Inclusion & Excellence plan in the years to come. Stay tuned for more details about that forum as we get closer to May.
Eyes on the Future: Planning for 2020-21
The arrival of spring means planning for the 2020-21 school year is in full swing, and I have a few updates to share about the coming year.
First, Kyrene School District has begun developing a budget proposal for the 2020-21 school year. As always, the budget will reflect Kyrene’s commitment to allocating more dollars to our classrooms. While the full budget picture is still being drawn, last week, the Kyrene Governing Board approved salary increases for our teachers. Continuing the Governor’s promise to increase teacher salaries, Kyrene will place 100% of any additional funds from the State for this purpose into the District’s teacher salary schedule.
It’s also time for families to begin thinking about student schedules next year. Registration for Kid Club and After Hours fall programming opens March 17, and it is important that families register as early as possible, so that we can hire staff accordingly. Once we know how many students are in enrolled in our before/after-school activities, we will have a better idea of how many employees will be needed to staff these programs in the coming year. The sooner Kyrene can hire, the less likely it is that students will be placed on wait lists.
March 17 is also the opening day of registration for all Kyrene 2020-21 preschool programming as well as registration for Kyrene summer camps and Summer Academy 2020. These programs fill up fast, so I encourage you to register as soon as possible.
As a reminder, Kyrene School District will be conducting a deep cleaning of all of our schools over Spring Break. Whether you are traveling or staying home next week, I wish you all a safe and healthy break.
Jan Vesely Ed.D.