CUSD updates its diversity action plan
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Claremont Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve its 2023-2027 Equity Action Plan.
Natalie Taylor, CUSD’s director of intervention and English learner programs, gave a presentation to the board during it first meeting of 2024 on January 18, outlining the plan’s updates including several specific goals to strengthen the district’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“The current plan was developed by the Equity Advisory Council, and includes data released in the 2023 California Dashboard,” according to the staff report. “The plan has been reviewed by faculty, staff, and administrations, and the members of the Equity Advisory Council, including parents, caregivers, and students. This plan will drive equity actions in CUSD until 2027, which also coincides with the completion of the next [local control and accountability plan] and the 5th year of the CUSD Commitment.”
The CUSD commitment was drafted during the previous school year to plainly state the goals of the district for all its students. Among them are, “Igniting curiosity, strengthening resilience, and inspiring excellence to empower each student’s academic journey.” It includes four core values: excellence, equity, innovation, and integrity.
The commitment is further broken down into six focus areas: academic achievement and instruction; the whole child; access and equity; student and staff safety and wellness; engaged families and community partners; and optimized financial and human resources.
“The Equity Action Plan is a multi-year document outlining equity initiatives in CUSD. The plan was started based on recommendations by the 2020-2021 District Advisory Committee on Racial Equity (DAC),” read the staff report. “Following the year-long study of racial equity in CUSD, the DAC provided recommendations to the Governing Board to further investigate and take action to decrease inequities in Claremont Unified School District.”
The District Advisory Committee on Racial Equity recommends that after its work is complete the district form another committee to continue “unearthing and unpacking the intricacies of the barriers to equity in CUSD.” That new committee became the Equity Advisory Council, which worked to prepare the updated action plan brought before the Board of Education last week.
The Equity Advisory Council includes five students, 14 parents or community members, eight teachers, six administrators and one “other” school staff member. The goal was to make the council reflect a broad range of student and adult voices to ensure “the inclusion of culturally and linguistically diverse members.” Superintendent Jim Elsasser and other top school officials often sit in on the group’s meetings. The council routinely submits progress reports during regularly scheduled Board of Education meetings.
During last Thursday’s meeting, Taylor outlined goals and action plans for each of the six focus areas found in the CUSD commitment.
Under focus area 2, the whole child, the goal is to “Increase the percentage of students who feel that school is a place where they belong.” Possible actions include, “continue regular meetings with the superintendent’s High School Advisory Council; evaluate student representation in leadership positions such as ASB and student council; create support plans, when needed, for gender non-binary students; and support equity and inclusion committees and student activities at the site level.”
In focus area 6 the goal is to “increase the racial/ethnic demographics of staff to increasingly mirror the demographics of students.”
According to data in the Equity Action Plan report, current staffing levels show an overrepresentation of white staff members compared with the student body. However, the report stated the district is making steady progress toward “mirroring the demographics” of CUSD pupils.
Since the 2021-2022 school year the district has added 14 additional Hispanic/Latino staff members, a 3.6% increase, while the Hispanic/Latino portion of the student body increased by 1.7%. During that same time the number of white staffers has decreased by 3.4% and white enrollment as gone down 1.5%.
For the 2022-2023 school year Hispanic/Latino students made up 45.6% of enrollment, while just 33.6% of staff identified as Hispanic/Latino. White youths made up 28.4% of the student body, while 48.7% staff members were white. Black students made up 4.4% of the student body and 4.2% of staff. Eleven percent of students were Asian compared with 5.5% of staff.
With the board’s approval, the action plan now heads into a “continuous improvement cycle” in which the various stakeholders will continue to evaluate and refine the plan through its conclusion in 2027. Meanwhile, CUSD students, teachers, administration, and classified staff will constantly implement the plan throughout the district.
Earlier in last Thursday’s board meeting Elsasser announced that Taylor had been awarded the Association of California School Administrators Valuing Diversity Award for her work to strengthen equity across the district.
“Each year members of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region IV nominate exemplary individuals for numerous ASCA-sponsored awards. These awards recognize individuals and bring distinction to the individual’s school/district,” according to the report from Elsasser.