What is equity?
For the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD), equity means providing every student and adult with the resources needed to learn and thrive. Our district seeks to develop a bold framework for equity that examines biases, taps into the cultural assets that every person possesses, and dismantles structural barriers to access and opportunity.
In January 2019, the Hayward Unified School District Board of Education requested that the district engage in a strategic planning process in order to provide focus and direction to our equity work. They asked that the plan be driven by community input, developed by community leaders, and focused on actionable goals that can be achieved in three years.
HUSD responded by convening a District Advisory Committee (DAC) that consists of students, family, staff, and community leaders to drive the strategic plan development. Educational equity emerged as a key core value and a focus of the DAC’s strategic plan. The district also drafted a new mission statement: “We draw from our community’s rich diversity in order to create an engaging and equitable educational experience, delivered in a safe and supportive environment.” After approving the
three-year strategic plan
, the Board of Education sought to further develop a shared understanding of equity in HUSD.
Educational Equity Workshop
The trustees proposed holding a special board workshop on educational equity, which took place on September 25. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Bobby Nakamoto, Director of Equity and Student Success at Chabot College, and Gabriel Chaparro, Director of STEM Center Equity. Along with the superintendent and the critical voices of our four student board members, the group had the following goals for the meeting.
- Hear directly from students and understand their experiences
- Learn about the theory and research on equity in education
- Develop a shared understanding of what we mean by having equity as a core value in HUSD
- Review HUSD’s proposed equity framework
- Identify the school board’s role in supporting our focus on equity in HUSD
The workshop began by asking “the why.” Why were members of the governance team motivated to serve in this capacity? The answers ranged from the need to address an opportunity gap to wanting to bring years of educational experience to HUSD for the benefit of students and families.
The contribution of our student board members was the central focus of the workshop’s discussion. Our student representative from Brenkwitz High School shared an analogy to convey her definition of equity. “Every person has their own toolbox with customized tools they need to succeed,” she shared. Students shared various examples of how educators can shift their perspective from a deficit lens to an equity lens. The group spoke throughout the workshop about the importance of asking “What has happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?” when addressing student concerns and behaviors. This speaks to the notion of disrupting predictable patterns of success and failure.
The governance team sees the need to establish a shared understanding of equity because it will guide HUSD’s work moving forward. “What’s different about this workshop is that we’ve incorporated equity into our strategic plan,” shared board vice president, Dr. Annette Walker. “Adopting an updated equity policy will allow us to focus resources in a way that aligns with our priorities.”
The governance team’s discussion resulted in the emergence of the following key ideas. They are:
- Recognizing the difference between equality vs. equity and allocating our resources based on the need
- Shifting our mindset as a district from asking students “What’s wrong with you?”(blaming) to asking “What happened to you?” (empathy)
- We recognize that all of us carry implicit bias. We want to recognize it, own it, and speak openly about how these biases hinder our progress.
The board will continue its discussion on equity in a very public way during future board meetings. Additionally, all site administrators will participate in a leadership institute for equity in mid-October. Eventually, these conversations will take place among teachers as our Instructional Leadership Teams work to engage our equity framework with their colleagues.