MRSD Equity Task Force Aims To Tackle Goals With New Subcommittees

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: Monomoy Regional School District , Education , Monomoy Regional High School , Monomoy Regional Middle School

Monomoy Regional High School. FILE PHOTO

Changes have been implemented to the Monomoy Regional School District’s Equity Task Force.

In the fall, the school district invited all of its parents and caregivers, teachers and staff, students and community members to be a part of a newly-formed Monomoy Equity Task Force, which was created to bring more equity to a school district with a population that becomes more diverse each year.

“We initially started by building some shared knowledge around issues related to equity and started conversations around what equity is,” said Marc Smith, the district’s director of curriculum who oversees the task force. “We started to share some knowledge and get to know each other. It was a big group — about 80 people — so we just wanted to find out whose voice was present and whose voice was missing.”

As the fall turned to winter, the group really took shape with about 40 members who seem to be committed to regularly participating. Still, coordinating meetings with that many students and adults who are balancing their own busy lives was tricky, and creating a way for that many voices to be represented was another challenge for Smith.

The task force started brainstorming different areas of focus that could become potential subcommittees, eventually settling on about eight or nine, according to Smith. That still seemed like too much to manage, however, so Smith asked that every member pick two subcommittees they would want to work on in addition to asking if anyone would be interested in chairing a subcommittee.

“Between people willing to step up and the way people kind of followed their individual interests, we ended up with five subcommittees that are the first five subcommittees we’re going to focus on, and then three more that are sort of our next round of subcommittees to tackle once we move forward with the work that we’re currently working on,” Smith said.

The five subcommittees include a communications subcommittee, an academic pathways to success subcommittee, a curriculum subcommittee, a restorative practices subcommittee and a student voice subcommittee. They meet about once every two weeks, while the full task force meets about once every two months. All meetings have been virtual due to COVID-19, though Smith said the group is anxious to meet in person.

With about a dozen members, the curriculum subcommittee is the biggest according to Smith, followed by student voice, which has 10. Restorative practices and communication each have seven and academic pathways has four.

Smith said having the task force’s large group broken down into smaller subcommittees has allowed members to focus on the areas of equity they are most passionate about. The next step will be for the various subcommittees to pursue actions that might yield change.

“Each group has set some specific short- and long-term actionable goals to actually make some meaningful change,” Smith said. “As an example, the restorative practices team is currently looking at and analyzing each of the handbooks at each of the schools for restorative practices to see if our handbooks, specifically the parts that deal with student discipline — do we actually have restorative processes in our student handbooks in the code of conduct section?

“And, if we don’t, as this school year comes to an end, they’re going to make recommendations that will go to the assistant principals because the assistant principals make adjustments to the handbooks over the summer that then go back to the school committees for approvals.”

In addition to implementing the new subcommittees, Monomoy’s Equity Task Force has also maintained and expanded its partnerships in the community, Smith said.

“We’re continuing to look to expand partnerships,” he said. “We have two members of the MLK task force, which is a completely separate Cape Cod-based task force, but they are a part of our task force and tangentially we’ve been doing some work with them around staff recruitment and professional development to support our equity work.

“Then we also have a newly-formed partnership with Cape Cod Voices, which is another Cape-based anti-racism organization. So, we’re really looking to develop some partnerships to support our work as well, not just trying to do this all by ourselves.”

Students appreciate the opportunity to express their concerns and opinions, said Monomoy High 10th grader Molly Gramm. “This is a great opportunity to work along fellow students and staff to create the movement towards making improvements in this district,” she said. “I am happy to have the opportunity to collaborate with different people.”

“As a student, I am given the unique opportunity to communicate with my peers and staff members to achieve this goal,” added 10th grader Maximus Weinberg. “The Task Force really makes each student’s voice feel heard and caters its goals and mission to the vision of the students of a better Monomoy.”

Across the Monomoy school district, 22 percent of the student population is non-white and, for more than 80 students, English isn’t their first language or the language that is primarily spoken inside their homes. The minority population continues to rise, which is one reason Smith said the district will continue to emphasize the importance of equity.

“It has become abundantly clear that matters of equity are not simply another box to check off, but are a moral imperative,” Superintendent Scott Carpenter said in a statement. “Our administrators, teachers, and staff are committed to supporting the work of the Equity Task Force and are so appreciative of those taking on this difficult yet vital work.”

“It’s ongoing work and we’re committed to it,” Smith said. “It’s a part of our strategic plan and has been a part of our strategic plan for the past two or three years at this point. Next year is the last year of our current strategic plan, and I guarantee this will continue to be a part of our next round of strategic planning. As a district, we’re committed to this work.”

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com