Jen Lima answers more FAQs
As requested by the School Committee at its March 8th meeting, the DEI Subcommittee has re-reviewed the proposals for a DEI Community Assessment (Equity Audit). The subcommittee met to discuss what items could be removed from the bids and has requested revised proposals from the vendors. The majority of the subcommittee believes that the proposal should be approved as originally submitted. But recognizing that cost is a factor that must be taken into consideration, the full subcommittee agreed that the following phases could be either eliminated, or done in-house. It’s important to note that the subcommittee believes that any additional cuts jeopardize the integrity of the audit itself. 1st CUT: Phase VII: Curriculum Review ($10,250).
Our elementary and middle school curriculums are new, and were vetted using the RIDE culturally responsive framework. Our high school just received a waiver for the English curriculum, and the same questions were used to guide that submission as well. 2nd CUT: Phase VI: Workforce Diversity Strategies ($4,750)
The DEI Subcommittee wants to be clear that this was not cut because it's not necessary. It actually is one of the highest priorities. There is no question that NKSD can improve in this area. We believe work can begin on this now and the subcommittee will be focusing their efforts on this in the short term. The cuts made represent a reduction of approximately $15,000 (20%) of the preferred proposal as priced ($73,250). We are waiting on the revised proposals from both vendors. I have already presented information about the Equity Audit, and why we as a subcommittee believe it is a benefit to our district. I urge everyone to read the link embedded in the previous sentence. I want to just touch on a few of the points that I hear being raised in opposition:
Cost: The cost for this audit WILL NOT come from the school’s operating budget. ESSER funds can be used to pay for this. The cost of this audit (pre-cuts) represents about 1.2% of the total amount of ESSER funds our district has received.
Subject Matter: This audit is not just about race. It is looking for areas of inequity in multiple areas: race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religious affiliation, etc.
Additional Funds Needed to Implement Recommendations: In other districts, many of the recommendations were cost neutral. Any changes that require an outlay of funds need to be approved by the School Committee.
Equity Destroys Equality: Equity considers each individual differently and by their needs. Equality considers everyone the same and doesn’t take their needs into account. Increasing opportunities for one group, does not take anything away from another.
North Kingstown is a great school district. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas we can improve. I believe that we owe it to our current (and future) students to name where those areas are, and then figure out what needs to be done to fix them. I recently attended a training where we were talking about data. The importance of it, how to quantify it, what to do with it once you have it. During this discussion someone said “stories are data with souls”. I have heard people’s stories regarding the inequities they have experienced in our district. Regardless of what the numbers say, those souls exist within our community. We need to listen to them.
--Jennifer Lima (she/her/hers)