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Return-to-School Update and Equity [Video]


[Superintendent Brian Harvey]

Good afternoon to our students, staff, and parents. In May, I promised you that the Oxford School District would work diligently to provide an update about our plans to return-to-school in the fall. Today is June 15th and I want to share with you the work that has been done and will continue to be done so that we can return to an environment that is safe and secure for our students and staff.

Let me start by saying, we all have been under the pressure of uncertainty over the past months. I want to thank you for taking the numerous surveys we have sent since spring break because your voice matters in our decision making process. Our surveys indicate that the majority of our families are wanting to return to school. I, too, am one of those parents who “just wants to get back to normal.” But as your Superintendent, I know the work, expense, and the risks that it will take to get us there safely.

At the May 28th board meeting, a committee was approved for the purpose of developing priorities and metrics that the Board of Trustees would use drafting a policy to define the conditions of reopening and operating schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This committee is made up of city leaders, OSD parents, board members, and staff. We have posted a list of that committee on the district’s Covid-19 webpage.

We met on Friday, June 5th and June 12th and considered what was best for students, staff, and the community through the lens of physical health, social-emotional health, student achievement, and the financial considerations both short and long term.

The plan is for the Board of Trustees to approve a policy at our meeting on June 29. I invite you to tune in to our board meeting on the NFHS livestream to hear the discussion.

Once approved, we will begin the process of communicating to you and the public how schools will look in August. Again, these are subject to change based on circumstances.

While we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, we also are dealing with something much greater that has potential to either bring us closer together or break us further apart. How we react to each other, our students, our parents, and our staff will show our commitment to one of our most important core values- EQUITY.

Social and racial injustice is a part of Oxford’s history and we will have to deal with its consequences for some time. We have an extremely diverse student body with over 29 primary languages spoken. We know, in the Oxford School District, that the color of a person's skin does not pre-determine their ability to succeed and pursue happiness.

In recent years we have taken steps to bridge the gap and open more opportunities for our African-American and Hispanic students. Although we have begun this work there is still much left to do. However, we have not been stagnant.

First of all, I want to introduce to you our Equity Director, Latonya Robinson who is a vital guide in this process. Latonya returned to our district in 2018 and has been establishing practices to identify the support needed so that the outcomes of our African-American and Hispanic students can continue to improve. I have asked Latonya to explain some of the areas in which the district has made progress:

[Equity Director Latonya Robinson]

  1. MTSS-Multi-Tier System of Supports-Our behavior coaches, intervention coordinators, counselors have began the process to become aligned and provide a safety net and supports for students who struggle.
  2. Whole Child Initiative-The Oxford School District partnered with the Palmer Home to provide whole child supports. A district Champion team has been established and school champion teams have been meeting all year.
  3. Cultural responsiveness and social-emotional professional development have been provided during Passion PD days.
  4. We have expanded Day Treatment, a therapeutic behavior intervention program, that will replace our punitive alternative school program. OLC was the most racially divided and oppressive of all of our schools. That is not to say that the teachers did not do a good job. They did and have for a long time. However, further change was and is needed.

[Superintendent Brian Harvey]

In addition, the district supports the AVID program at Oxford Intermediate, Middle, and High School. This is a program that is targeted for non-traditional and potential 1st generation college students.

Recently, the board approved a revised dress code that removed any discriminatory language or practices.

We also have areas where further work needs to be done. These are listed below.

  1. INSIGHTS the OSD’s Gifted and talented program - Our gifted and talented program is one of the most racially misrepresented programs in the district. The participation rates of minorities who qualify for INSIGHTS is well below 10%. We have to improve in this area. We are evaluating different assessments that will be more equitable.
  2. Advanced Placement - It should not be a surprise that minority participation in AP courses at OHS mirrors that of INSIGHTS in 2nd grade. This is unacceptable and the District through AVID and other resources will be looking to encourage more African-American and Hispanic students into upper level courses.
  3. As part of our Whole Child Initiative, the Code of Conduct and the process for discipline referrals must be re-evaluated.

Our work is not done. We are dismantling systemic oppressive structures and opening opportunities for ALL children. Operationalizing equity is hard and potentially polarizing work, but we WILL stay the course.

Again, I invite you to tune in to the June 29th board meeting at 5pm.

Thank you for your hard work and diligence to keep Oxford safe.