BLM flag raising Milton

Students add a Black Lives Matter flag to Milton High School's flagpole at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

MILTON — As the new school year begins, Milton Town School District is taking a two-pronged approach to furthering its work around diversity and social justice.

While MTSD leaders are learning the philosophy and getting educated about systems of oppression and anti-racism, Superintendent Amy Rex hopes to get a District Diversity and Inclusion Committee off the ground to get the work started. 

Here's the plan: 

1.   Beginning next week, MTSD leaders will take part in a six-session diversity and racial equity training program. 

Beyond Diversity: LEADS (Leadership for Racial Equity) is a six-session virtual program focused on helping educators understand institutional racism and systems thinking.

Superintendent Rex, district office leaders and MTSD principals will participate in the program, which is partially paid for and sponsored by the Champlain Valley Educator Development Center.

“We’re very, very excited about it,” Rex said. “And it’s pretty rigorous which is great. It’s not like you just show up and that’s it.” 

Rex said MTSD leaders will use LEADS’ online platform to complete homework and practice learned-skills in-between sessions.

While participation in this program seems particularly relevant now, Rex said MTSD’s involvement actually began in the beginning of March.

“Interestingly, the first session, which was an in-person session, was on the day before we closed schools,” she said. “So we’re actually going to do the first session over again.”

At the end of the program, participants will be tasked with designing a curriculum that will introduce critical race theory and equity initiatives into Milton’s classrooms.

“The application piece is really what’s important for us,” Rex said. “How are we going to use the theories to really bring some significant change?”

MTSD leaders and other area districts begin the program together Sept. 22. The remaining sessions are spread throughout the months of November, December, January and March.

2.   In tandem, Rex is hoping to start a District Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which, if approved by the school board, would look at current school policies through a lens of diversity and equity.

The District Diversity and Inclusion Committee would be just one of the ways the MTSD plans to apply the philosophies leaders will learn in the LEADS program.

“I’ve been doing a lot of homework on my own, and I think this is something we need,” Rex said.

The committee, led by Rex, would include representatives from each of the three schools: an administrator, a faculty member and several students. Another distinct office leader as well as a few community members would round out the committee.

“These people will have to commit to doing the hard work,” she said. “It requires that people do the learning and the un-learning and be willing to understand the issues through reading.”

The committee might start by examining the district’s hiring procedures and discipline practices. After doing some research and data-gathering, the committee draft up revisions to those policies for review by the school board.

“The purpose of the committee would really be to look through the lens of our policies and procedures and practices and really ask, do they reflect our vision of learning?” she said. “Do they foster a safe and equitable working and learning environment, especially for students of color?”

Rex proposed the idea for the District Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the Sept. 10 school board meeting. It will be further discussed and voter upon at a later date.

Further reading: 

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