We are proud of our work for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in Bellingham Public Schools—and we know we can always be doing better. As we ring in 2019, I shared some initiatives we are working on to continue to bring EDI to the forefront of our work.

We are working to revise The Bellingham Promise to make sure it absolutely conveys how central equity, diversity and inclusion are to us.

Key Strategies graphic

We have partnered with the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, a long-time Bellingham leader for social justice, to create a new poster for our schools and classrooms.

Joining Hands Against Hate

We started a new class called the Bilingual Educator Academy with the goal of recruiting future teachers who reflect our community as a whole. I encourage you to take a moment and watch our latest edition of “What’s Up Doc,” our recurring video feature where students interview me about a topic of interest, to hear more from these amazing young people.

For more information about each of these, please see my message to families, staff and the community. I welcome your comments, reflections or suggestions for me and our staff and schools.

Just a friendly reminder that comments that are personally directed, inappropriate or anonymous will not be posted.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. As I think we all understand the importance of diversity, I believe these response to change “our promise” is a reaction to the media and the social pressures of only a few. I look around our schools and students and see our children embracing the differences among each other, beyond color/gender/etc. This could goes far beyond the catchphrases that you choosing to highlighting….I have seen more discrimination and judgment cast to the “kid with the glasses” or “disability” than the social justice talking points that Bellingham Schools is choosing to highlight. Why the need to specify? Why not just make it all encompassing and say we embrace the differences among ALL our students. This is all too reminiscence of the LGBT reaction from Bellingham Schools, making the importance of differences primarily on LGBT with no consideration to race, hair color, freckles, skin conditions, disabilities, etc. It simply placed the emphasis on LGBT and forgot about people of race or other differences that seem to be forgotten, ignored, irrelevant or not important enough by Bellingham Schools. Now this. However it seems like this is a step (backwards) into the right direction….How about we go back to where we should’ve considered starting and make this about all differences and not such specifics as just the politicized highlight reel. Say what we do, not what a specific group is placing the emphasis on while disregarding the other differences. I would hope we promote differences and diversity among our student and staff, not the “more” important or “popular” ones.

    • Hi Jeremy, thanks for your comments. We know that there are communities in our schools who have the experience of not seeing themselves reflected in their classrooms, the curriculum, and the staff. By highlighting our EDI work, we are articulating a commitment to learning, growing and dismantling that burden through strategic work. We want all of our students to thrive (academically, socially, emotionally, physically, etc.) and we know that by focusing our attention on areas where students and families have historically been marginalized, we offer new pathways for that to happen. I agree that all students should be treated with respect and kindness at school, and we hope our current work will make this even more clear. Thanks, Greg

      • “Historically marginalized”….? The overweight kid, the child that can’t afford new clothing or shoes, the kid with the cowlick, skin condition, funny teeth, hygiene, lisp, stutter, social awkwardness/shyness, glasses, learning disability, etc. are the historically marginalized. These groups make up the majority of the marginalized, too. Everyone needs a voice. By only making this about a LGBQT or EDI or whatever, we are leaving the rest of “us” out of the promise. Fine is you want to address this separately in a newsletter or whatnot, but our “promise” shouldn’t be specific or the arena to position ourselves directly with one group or another. If you call out some, you need to call out them all. By only calling out a few groups, you become the one who is marginalizing the rest.

    • Please do something about the Squalicum Highschool Varsity basketball game incident 1/23/2019 with the gym supervisor who subjected Adam Haizlip and his family to racial discrimination. This is one example of racial discrimination and at a school-wide family event nonetheless! Much work is still needed with equity and inclusion. 🌟🌟PLEASE PLEASE intervene and INSIST that school officials receive Cultural Responsitivity Training with Whatcom Diversity Academy🌼🌼🌼

      • Hi Natane, thank you for taking the time to comment. We are working closely with the family and others on the situation you referenced and are working hard to learn from the incident and increase the training available to all our staff.
        We stand united in fighting racism and other forms of hatred. I want all of our students and families to feel safe and included at all of our events and in our classrooms. – Greg

  2. I am all about ALL LIVES MATTER. What I often do not see is the child with physical, and ID (Intellect Disabilities) remembered. Some countries are working hard to eliminate person’s born with Down Syndrome. I am not saying we are like that in Bellingham. What Is continually needed is educating our children, and adults, in regards to the fact that it is important to value ALL LIFE. As I believe this was touched on in the previous response, regarding a child with glasses. So we could say “ALL LIVES ARE IMPORTANT”, AND “ALL LIVES MATTER”. Physical, and ID, glasses, and braces, LGBQT, every color (mixed, or not). Love everyone, but do not condone hate behavior. My feathers get very ruffled, as person’s with Disability’s have the lowest employment, and income rate comparativly in the US. People who can’t always defend, and advocate for themselves, need people who can. Thank you to all who already accomplish this selfless act.

    • Hello Tami, it sounds like you would like us to make sure that we make sure the language of The Promise is inclusive of those with intellectual and other disabilities. I have heard this from a number of people, and I really appreciate that feedback—I hear you. If you have any ideas about how we can make this more clear in The Bellingham Promise, please let me know. Thank you for taking the time to reach out with your thoughts. – Greg

      • YES! All lives matter! This is where I think the majority of us in the community reside. There is no exclusivity in that statement. Being specific like Greg is trying to do makes it feel as if the rest of us, the ones not mentioned, are not worthy of mention or are not relevant or as apparent enough to be called out. That leaves some forgotten and without a voice. Give us all a voice. Unite us in a common message or promise. Don’t further divide us with specificity.

  3. Dr. Baker,

    I have received 3 emails from you in the last month and NOT ONE of them has been about academics. You are the superintendent of a public school district not a psychologist using children for a trendy social experiment. I don’t want to hear your recommendations about what books I should be reading or how you’ll once again be spending even more of our budget dollars and resources addressing the latest social issues instead of reducing class sizes and teaching our kids to have some actual knowledge and skills that will help them once they leave high school. Yes, it’s a noble goal to want kids to treat each other with kindness and respect but making that 90% of your focus is just not realistic. Let’s start focusing on the basics and right this ship that has gotten so off course.

    • Hi Jen, I appreciate your perspective. Academics are still absolutely the core of our work and The Bellingham Promise is still very much focused on a broad set of academic outcomes. Last year we shared some data on graduation rates and our improving trend overall: http://bellinghamschools.org/news/graduation-rates-students/ , and we have seen similar progress this year. As I wrote last year, in education it is challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of improvements; however, we believe that The Promise and the way it helps us prioritize efforts that support student learning are a big part of our students’ academic gains.

  4. It’s time for not just words but actions… embrace diversity and inclusion by hiring more teachers and staff of colors at the school district.

    • Hui-Ling, thank you for this encouragement. Recruiting a diverse workforce is one of our top priorities; our most recent data shows that since October 2013 we have approximately doubled our percentage of employees who identify as an ethnic minority, and we are continuing to work toward having a staff that reflects the diversity within our community even more. One of the challenges of recruiting a wide range of people is having a pool of qualified teachers and staff from all kinds of backgrounds from which to hire. This is another reason I am so excited about our Bilingual Educator Academy, which I shared about in my post, and why the state of Washington has created its Recruiting Washington Teachers program: https://www.pesb.wa.gov/workforce-development/growing-future-educators/rwt/

  5. This is a very good point. I see a lot of Greg Bakers time spent on adhering to social justice and not academics. The focus should be education… making it a comfortable environment is also important, but like the past two posts, it is important not to make it exclusive to just LGBQT or race. Our statement (and I do mean “our” as this is not just Greg’s) is to make everyone to feel included. By trying to speak specifically to whatever Greg feels is marginalized or the most apparent talking points highlighted in the media, leaves the others with disabilities, different physical attributes (from weight to un-straight teeth), low income, etc. forgotten. Our message (and “promise”) should not exclude others but include all. The very nature of only highlighting a specific group, as in LGBQT or race, excludes others who you are not given a voice in our promise. The solution is to say all and not just the ones Greg highlights as it leaves all the others not mentioned to feel not worthy or forgotten. Say we except everyone and stop chasing down the highlights from the social media storm.

  6. I support the school district’s efforts to balance “traditional” emphasis on academics and active welcoming/including of historically marginalized, as it were, groups of students. A student can’t learn as effectively if the social environment is difficult. (Not to mention things like the higher suicide rates of LGBTQ children, presumably because of social stigma and lack of support.) So I see these 2 efforts as complementary and fully in support of academic achievement. I’m sure the effort won’t be perfect, and there are certainly other communities and challenges that need to be supported, and there will need to be (continual) adjustments, but I think it’s going in the right direction.

    • Meg, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your reflections match up with what we are thinking about when we prioritize. Thanks! – Greg

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