Strongsville City Schools
Thank you again for your interest in being a member of our Diversity Council and for those of you that were able to attend, we appreciate you engaging in this work. Whether you were there or not, I wanted to share some highlights of our meeting, next steps, and answer some questions that have been asked. Additionally, if you attended the meeting on Tuesday, please CLICK HERE to provide your feedback on the meeting. Please read the information below prior to completing the survey.
Have a great week!
Introductory Information. You can CLICK HERE to access the agenda. The agenda and the included links will give you some context to the meeting. Please take a look at the Mission and Focus for the Council, which is at the top of the agenda. At the meeting, I also detailed some of the action items for the Council this year, which includes (1) enhancing and expanding engagement in this work through our Diversity Council, (2) developing our strategic plan, (3) effectively communicating our work with our stakeholders, (4) providing professional development, support, and resources for our staff, and (5) gathering feedback from our staff and students via a survey. As these action items detail, our main focus this year will be working with our Council and our staff.
Identity Wheel Activity. As I reflected on this activity after the meeting, I thought it may be helpful to share my reflections with everyone. As I completed the wheel for me, I probably didn’t have a true #1 identity based on the pre-written choices. As a white, middle class, straight male that was raised in and currently has a “nuclear family”, there are not many aspects of my identity that are front of mind on a daily basis related to the identity markers listed in this activity. However, there are still times when they have been or are for me. As a jazz musician, I had many experiences of being the only white person in a room. At that moment, my identity of race was top of mind. As a male in a female dominated occupation, there have been many instances where my sex/gender is top of mind in how I communicate and collaborate. On a daily basis, my identity of being a Superintendent is with me 24/7. As a person with a very public position, I am always the Superintendent no matter if I'm at Home Depot or in the office. The point is, just because the majority of my identity doesn't impact me on a daily basis, doesn't mean I can extrapolate that same experience onto others. When we do so, we miss out on seeing and understanding the lived experiences of our students where their socioeconomic status, their religion, their family structure, their race/ethnicity, their developmental difference may always be present. The goal of the identity activity was about coming together as a community and having meaningful discussions about what each of these identities means to us and means to our kids.
Identity Wheel Next Steps. The foundational conversation we had on Tuesday will lead us to learn what we are seeing in our classrooms and our homes regarding school experiences. Although we still need to debrief with our Steering Committee, the idea is to come back to the Council with one identity at our December meeting (e.g., ethnicity) and collaborate to collectively determine how we can use this feedback from our staff, community, and parents to give guidance to our teachers on how to best support our students in all aspects of what it means to be a student in 2021. This work aligns with the Mission of our Council as we work together to ensure that every student feels valued and belongs to our school district so that they can achieve their true potential. Our work is focused on creating guidance for our adults.
Questions. Listed below are the answers to some questions that have been asked of me during or after the meeting.
What is the District’s stance on the use of pronouns? As a school district, we do not require students to define their preferred pronouns. However, based on guidance from the Office of Civil Rights, school districts should use a student's preferred name and pronouns when requested to do so by the student. How does this work relate to our students' academic needs? Whether you prescribe to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or the growing body of research on how 'belonging' influences student achievement, the research is clear that if kids don't have their basic needs met, inclusive of belonging and connection to their school environment, we are never going to reach a level of academic achievement for our students that we all want. Our Mission aligns to this research and our work will support students academically, as well as their social emotional learning.What will our students experience / participate in this year? As it was shared above, our focus is on the work of our committee and our staff. The only component that will involve students is a student survey for our secondary students. Prior to administering the survey, we will send a parent letter, have a parent informational meeting, and give an opportunity for parents to preview the survey. Participation will be optional. The results will be used to help support the development of our strategic plan. Dr. Cameron M. RybaSuperintendentStrongsville City Schools440.572.7010