Developing Culturally Responsive Engagements
Winooski, VT School District serves a diverse group of students, many of whom are New Americans and refugees. As in other more rural areas, the shifting needs and racial demographics, from a predominately white community to multi-culture, multi-language, have prompted some “original” families to question whether or not an equitable environment benefits their students. While the district has made great strides and is truly a model for creating equity, these forces and influencers continue to challenge their efforts. There is misconception among some community members that the multicultural environment may not be the best environment for all students, specifically, white, middle class students.
The School Board has identified the need to change the community’s perception as a major priority. Towards this end, the community needs to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the valuable resource they have in WHS and the tremendous impact student-centered learning and the schools’ multi culture-language is having in preparing ALL students for success in career, college and in life.
Imaj’s goal was to support Winooski School Board members, in their roles as advocates and influencers, in increasing their understanding of how to more culturally responsive in engaging parents and students in conversations about their school and to the concerns parents and community members have regarding the changes taking place.
CREATING AN INTEGRATED STRATEGY
To support Winooski in being culturally responsive in engaging families and students, Imaj developed strategies focusing on:
- amplifying student voice
- creating more diverse and equitable partnerships
- developing a brand in-line with their culture of embracing diversity and putting students at the center of learning
- developing experiences and outreach toward the “original community” to encourage exploration of the benefits of equity
- developing authentic partnerships across all community groups to encourage equity throughout change
- developing and conducting workshops to support the board members in gaining a better understanding of what community members define and value student success.
EXECUTING THE PLAN
To support Winooski’s Board of Education to build relationships within the community that are culturally responsive, Imaj:
- developed and conducted workshops to support the board members in gaining a better understanding of what community members define and value student success
- facilitated role-playing using personas representative of actual community members and their views related to equity
- assisted board members in working through the process of having conversations that enabled them to see and talk about equity differently
- helped members fine-tune their listening and engagement skills in order to better assess the needs and concerns, and to involve more community members in solutions-building
As a result, members were able to fine-tune their listening and engagement skills in order to better assess the needs and concerns, and to involve more community members in solutions-building. Through role-playing using personas representative of actual community members and their views related to equity, board members worked through the process of having conversations that enabled them to see and talk about equity differently. Upon completing the workshop, board members were committed and eager to deeply engage with all members of the community and to broaden their own makeup into a more equitable mix of people and culture.