At the January Kokomo School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting, a new five-year, $500,000 cultural training plan was approved.

According to KSC Superintendent Jeff Hauswald, the move for cultural training is implementation of the school corporation’s anti-racism statement that was unveiled in June 2020. The training is concerned with the statement’s specific goal of “educating ourselves about race, anti-Black racism and white privilege.”

He also noted the recommendation is in part due to work from a cultural training committee that consisted of Kokomo Teachers’ Association appointed teachers, as well as KSC administration staff.

“As part of the professional development and training commitment of fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning community, Kokomo School Corporation, through direct support from the board, shall commit to increased and enhanced training with equity and inclusion as a foundation,” Hauswald said in making the recommendation.

The plan, funded by grants, begins in January and continues through the 2025-26 school year.

KTA President Nicole Fain Mundy said the organization is “excited” the corporation is taking steps to address racial justice.

“We look forward to continue to develop systematic changes with parent and community input and would welcome parents and community members to reach out to us via email at kta.itsa@gmail.com.”

Fain Mundy further explained she wants to hear from the community because this training and these steps affect the school community more than they do her.

“As individuals our experiences are different,” she said. “We don’t often recognize an issue until it affects us personally, so we have to be open to the idea that my experiences and your experiences are not the same, and we have to have hard conversations and listen to people who have experiences different than ours … if we’re going to foster change, we have to have hard conversations and listen for understanding, not for argumentation purposes.”

According to a press release from KSC, the training’s goal will be to develop a shared district of understanding, diversity and equity. This will be achieved through creating and meeting with cultural committees that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Surveys will be created to gauge intercultural and inclusionary language of staff with the goal of developing a common cultural language that is inclusive in nature.

Another strategy is building a multi-year professional development plan that provides intercultural competency training that will enhance educators’ knowledge of self and others while helping strengthen effective teaching, as it relates to working with, and instructing people from diverse backgrounds who have diverse perspectives.

As part of the approval, KSC entered into a contract with EducatorAide for initial cultural training to be provided from January through July 2021

As part of this training, district-wide culture surveys will be obtained from all employees, inclusive leader cohorts will be expanded to three additional schools, social awareness training will be provided to as many as 200 participants and additional strategy and instructional leadership planning will be provided to targeted staff members.

Additional professional development for continuity purposes will be provided to Kokomo High School, Bon Air Middle School and Pettit Park Elementary School, while student-facing cultural surveys will be conducted to understand more completely the perspective of students as it relates to their views on race and cultural competency.

According to former superintendent who led work associated with the plan Dorothea Irwin, one of the most important goals for the 2020-21 school year was the commitment to a professional development plan that provided awareness to racial disparity.

Irwin, who spent 22 years living in the South, said the experience gave her the opportunity to understand how disadvantaged a large portion of the population is based on their skin color. Irwin added that after returning to Indiana in 2000 and holding various administration level positions in the education field, she participated in many seminars, professional development opportunities and graduate classes that allowed for the exploration of the social construction of race.

“I believe the statement, ‘we can’t teach what we don’t know’. As a school system it is imperative that we have the opportunity to know how our practices evolved and how they can discriminate and perpetuate disparity,” Irwin said. “I find it exciting to be part of this work as we come together to understand the important role we all play as individuals and as community – locally, nationally and globally.”

Irwin said it is “essential” that students, families and schools are valued so that all students can receive a quality education.

“Once we become aware of social injustice, we can’t turn away but we must examine our own biases and behaviors in order to establish a society that honors all people,” she said.

According to Fain Mundy, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and examine where one stands on any number of topics in society. She said she believes schools are probably the best place to start addressing these issues.

“Schools should be a safe place for everybody that comes there,” she said. “Everyone should feel safe and welcome because schools are the foundation of our community.”
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