Dear families, staff and community members,
First, I’d like to say Happy New Year! I hope you each had some time to relax and recharge. And I know, for most, it’s great to get back into a regular routine of learning and working.
Today I would like to share some interconnected initiatives to bring equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to the forefront of our work. I invite your feedback.
As I mentioned in the message I sent before winter break, we are proud of our work in these areas in Bellingham Public Schools – and we know we can always be doing better. Here are some ways we are working toward a greater focus on EDI.
First, we are working to make sure that The Bellingham Promise, our strategic plan and commitment to the community, absolutely conveys how central equity, diversity and inclusion are to us.
Although The Promise alluded to these, I have received feedback from a number of folks that our language could be even more clear. Over the last few months in particular, we have had a number of hurtful incidents occur, incidents that involve racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. It’s hard to hear this feedback because I know how committed we are to the opposite, but I also honor the courage and thoughtfulness of those who have helped me and others understand their perspectives and experiences.
Therefore, over the past several months, as we strive to always improve, we have added clearer language and commitments into a new draft of the Bellingham Promise, specifically the Key Strategies portion, to emphasize what has always been implied. Thank you to all the staff and families who have already helped us add to this community vision. If you have feedback or suggestions for this living document, please respond to my blog post or email me directly.
Additionally, 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. As with our LGBTQ welcome poster we created a couple of years ago, we believe it’s not enough to say all people are welcome. We need to make sure that people who have historically been mistreated or marginalized are intentionally invited in to our spaces and their welcome made clear.
Finally, we are looking ahead to building the educational system for the next generation by recruiting a diverse workforce of tomorrow’s teachers today. Two high schools, Bellingham and Squalicum, have started a new class called the Bilingual Educator Academy (soon to be retitled Teacher Academy). I spent some time with three of these students recently—I encourage you to take a moment and watch our latest edition of “What’s Up Doc,” a recurring video feature where students interview me about a topic of interest. We in the district are proud of these young people and look forward to them being our colleagues someday.