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While we are proud of our progress, we know there is still significant work to accomplish in our district and around the state to attain educational justice.  We will continue to be bold in our efforts to do so.

Equity in staffing and leadership:

We hire our staff based on talent and skills and have implemented a rigorous recruitment, screening and hiring process.  As superintendent, I am highly active in the recruitment and hiring process.  Over the past three years our staff diversity has grown due to our efforts to proactively recruit a staff that reflects the diversity of our students.  District leadership team has grown to 25% leaders of color.  As of next year, half of our principals will be leaders of color.  Our leadership team contains a level of diversity and broad-based perspectives that are rarely seen in school districts and is highly valued.  We believe Richfield Public Schools to be the only district outside of Minneapolis or St. Paul to offer the combination of African American female leadership at the Assistant Superintendent and high school principal levels.  Each was recruited for the award-winning leadership they had been providing on the urban North Side of Minneapolis.  While our staff diversity is above Minnesota average, we know that it is still not enough. Dedicated to grow these numbers we have engaged in multiple recruitment efforts, international teacher exchange programs, launched partnerships with colleges and universities and begun work on grow your own programs.  We will openly and transparently share that we need to do better in this area and will continue to focus on improvements.  We provide funding toward Outreach Workers, a position that aligns with our values and Outreach workers are present in every school.  In the past three years, despite reductions in staffing in most other areas, we have added 2 additional Outreach Positions to a group that now totals 11, all of whom are staff of color and led by a Spanish-fluent Arabic director.

Equity in services and social justice:

We value and celebrate social justice in our organization for both our staff and our students.  We believe that that the most important social justice activity in our school district is to ensure that our students are thriving and learning in classrooms every day and that they feel welcomed and affirmed for who they are and what they believe.   We have provided a wide range of services and advocacy supporting our students and families.  Over the past three years we have opened an on-site health center providing services to all children birth-21 who are students or children of Richfield.  We have expanded our food and clothing shelves and have added district-wide free breakfast and free fresh fruit and vegetable snacks. 
We have added voluntary pre-k and pathway 2 scholarships which provide early education and intervention to our students.  We have been a loud and proud advocate for our students and families, hosting numerous community, immigration, and housing forums.  We have hosted and sponsored multiple district equity events directly making equity statements and practicing equity behaviors with our students, families, and community.
 
We are not afraid to make difficult and challenging decisions that, without all the information could certainly lead to equity questions.
We cut our AVID program and it was a controversial and difficult decision to do so.   AVID is known to be a successful program that frequently serves students of color.  Nearly half a million dollars were previously invested in the Richfield AVID program beyond the teacher staffing, but participants showed a graduation rate for African American and Latino students below the rate of those who had not participated.
We pulled out of the WMEP collaborative.  We made this decision at the same time as Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Center, two other progressive, small, diverse districts.  We believed at the time, and our findings show these beliefs to be accurate that we can access the WMEP programming that we need and value “
al a carte”, while adding Innocent Classroom equity training using the same funds.
As a district, you will hear us say clearly that we are very proud of our equity work.  I also want you to hear us say that we have a long road to go, we are up to the challenge and we want your support as we move forward.

You may be here for more than equity work.  You may be here for reasons concerning free speech or the Black Lives Matter Movement.
I am a believer in free speech and a lifelong free speech advocate.  One of the great benefits of a highly diverse leadership team is their multiple perspectives.  Our highly diverse and opinionated leadership team openly engages in sharing multiple perspectives that show our clear commitment to experiencing discomfort and I value the different opinions that our team members bring to the district. Each voice is valued and heard regardless of title or position.  (there was an excerpt here where I was unable to continue.  I may be missing part of the speech here). I can definitively tell you that Richfield Public Schools and our leadership did not ban political shirts.  We did not ban Black Lives Matter shirts in January and no staff members have been disciplined formally or informally for advocacy related to Black Lives Matters.  If you would walk down our halls on any given day, you would likely see Black Lives Matter and other statements of support for social justice and student advocacy on the clothing of both adults and students.
You may also be here for recent blog posts to show your advocacy for social justice
We are proud and impressed with the dedication of your voice and the spirit with which you are here.   I can definitively reassure you that the accounts that have been shared are inaccurate and we have taken steps to objectively confirm what has transpired and the accuracy of how it is being described by consulting with multiple individuals within our district.  Belief in this account requires the false assumption that despite not organizing an event and not wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, the mere mention of these things set off a course of astoundingly deplorable actions.  Belief in the account also requires ignoring that none of the employees involved in this situation alleged discrimination to any of our union leaders or district leadership team until posting of the blog.    Belief in this account requires the false assumption that our administration and board would support a recommendation for termination based on the subjective information provided in the blog posting rather than the actual objective documentation validated by multiple individuals used for the administrative recommendation before the board tonight.  If I were reading that blog post without additional information or multiple perspectives, I would be concerned too.  I can assure you that what has been portrayed is not what is taking place and that no staff member is or has been punished or terminated for any reasons related to student advocacy, support for Black Lives Matter or wanting to infuse social justice in schools.  I support social justice as superintendent as does our board. 
To conclude, I want to again welcome you to Richfield Public Schools.  We welcome your presence in our district now and in the future."

 

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