While members of the Loudoun County School Board all agreed that “equity” needs to be an important part of the school district’s future, figuring out just exactly where it belongs in the present—as an overarching core belief, on a strategic actions list, or both—is proving tougher to settle.
The School Board on Tuesday approved a draft list of 10 strategic actions in a long-range planning effort.
At its previous meeting on June 6, the School Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Equity received a report, “Systemic Equity Assessment: A Picture of Racial Equality Challenges and Opportunities,” that showed there is much work to be done to achieve equity in the school system. Several members of the committee criticized the slow pace of progress both before and after the release of the report, which was produced by consulting firm The Equity Collective. The School Board did not discuss the equity assessment on Tuesday night and won’t meet again until Aug. 13.
Board member Joy Maloney (Broad Run) has pushed for quicker action and to place a stronger emphasis on equity, including a call to make the recently appointed Equity Committee a permanent fixture within the board’s committee structure. She made a motion on Tuesday to add “equity” as No. 11 on the list of strategic actions and “inclusion” as No. 12. The motion failed on a 3-4 vote, with Maloney joined by two fellow staunch advocates of the Equity Committee’s work—Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), who chairs the ad hoc committee, Beth Huck (At Large) voting in favor of adding the two items to the list.
“I was very clear in [a board work] session that I would like to see equity in both places, so will be supporting the amendment,” Huck said.
Board member Chris Croll (Catoctin) explained why she voted against adding the two strategic actions along with Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) and members Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Tom Marshall (Leesburg). Some on the board and the public feel that equity is so important that school leaders need to elevate its status to a core belief, instead of a strategic action, which “didn’t really give the emphasis needed,” Croll said. Equity “may yet get added to both,” she said.
Superintendent Eric Williams reminded board members that there’s still time to make changes to the strategic actions. “Even what you’re approving tonight is a draft list,” he said, explaining that the board’s previous discussion, and the action on Tuesday, leaves open the possibility of adding them later. Part of the reason for the added discussion around where equity belongs is it crosses over into other strategic actions, Williams said. This includes strategic actions on personalized learning, professional learning and recruitment—all of which have an equity component, he said. Given the importance of the Equity Committee’s work, “it may be of value to have a separate item on equity. Regardless, we think it’s important enough as staff to keep going.”
Arguing for placement as both a strategic action and core belief, Sheridan said that “equity is so important, it should be elevated and cover everything.” Huck said she’s disappointed, with all the effort that the committee and board has put into the issue, “that we weren’t willing to put it on our list of strategic actions.”
The next meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Equity takes place Thursday, Aug. 1 at 5:30 p.m. The full list of 10 draft strategic actions are focused on communication; competitive compensation for all employees; gifted education; performance assessments; personalized learning; professional learning; project-based learning; recruitment and retention of a high-performing, diverse workforce; social emotional learning and mental wellness; and safety and security.
Members Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.