Dear Lexington School Community:
My official start date as the new Superintendent of Schools in Lexington was July 1, 2018, but thanks to a school community so dedicated to creating optimal learning experiences for all of the young people we serve, my focus on equity and inclusion began well before my arrival in Lexington.
During my interview process in January, 2018, Lexington School Committee members began to share with me community concerns about disproportionate discipline for students of color and students with special need, expressing their strong desire to find a leader committed to addressing issues of equity and creating inclusive opportunities for all. Before arriving in Lexington, I met with the Lexington Administrative Council, and I was genuinely touched by their deep commitment to all students and their hopes and dreams for the future. I watched countless televised School Committee and community meetings and read articles giving me insight into the perspectives of the many passionate advocates and members of the Lexington community who believe that more can and should be done to ensure that every member of our school community is treated fairly and justly. What drew me to Lexington, in large part, was the community’s unabiding belief that every young person deserves to feel a sense of belonging and full membership in the Lexington Public Schools, a value I wholeheartedly share.
The position paper you are reading, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Our Call to Action,” is the result of our community’s collective understanding that together we can and must do more every young person we serve. The ideas captured in “Our Call to Action” reflect the willingness of the Lexington school community to engage in thoughtful, open, and honest reflection and dialogue. It takes reflective leadership to openly confront issues of equity and commit to making changes in practice, and I want to acknowledge the work of the dedicated members of my dedicated LPS administrative team for their many contributions to this paper. My gratitude also extends to Lexington School Committee members Eileen Jay, Kate Colburn, Alessandro Alessandrini, Kathleen Lenihan, and Deepika Sawhney who are individually and collectively dedicated to the ideas captured in this position paper and to creating an even more unified Lexington. Our “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Our Call to Action” work would not be possible without the students and educators who inspire us daily and the passionate community groups and individuals in Lexington who continue to push our thinking.
While we could not incorporate every idea or suggestion that was made, it is our hope that “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Our Call to Action” accurately reflects our community’s values and priorities. We know that this work will be strengthened by further community input, and we are extending an invitation to several community groups (see next page for anticipated reviewers) in hopes that you will share your time and expertise with us and challenge us with your thoughtful feedback.
The conversations in Lexington about disparities in our school system should be happening everywhere, and the ideas discussed in this position paper are only the beginning to the important work we will do together. I thank you for helping us make our schools even stronger, and I look forward to your continued partnership in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
Presentation to the Lexington Human Rights Commission (LHRC)
On Friday, May 3, 2019, members of the LPS Administrative Council and I presented to the Lexington Human Rights Commission a status update on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work. The DEI work that we have undertaken requires a cultural shift, which takes time and the active involvement of many. As I have noted in the past, the Lexington Public Schools cannot do this work alone. LPS is a microcosm of Lexington, Lexington is a microcosm of Massachusetts, Massachusetts is a microcosm of the United States of America, and our Nation is situated in a well-established historical context of institutional racism and discrimination that has existed for hundreds of years.
We recognize that no single approach will eradicate disparities that exist in our school system. Changes in culture require a multifaceted approach to problem-solving and deep understanding by a majority of stakeholders. The purpose of the DEI presentation was to inform the LHRC of our collaborative efforts and the many actions we have undertaken to affect meaningful and sustainable change. As noted in the LHRC May 3, 2019 PowerPoint presentation, the total number of students who are suspended related to the population is now less than 1%. Furthermore, we are beginning to see a decrease in the discipline disparities between African American and White students and students with and without disabilities.
Reference: PowerPoint Presentation to the LHRC, May 3, 2019