DougCo school board president proposes equity policy revisions

Suzie Glassman
DougCo school board president Mike PetersonPhoto byDouglas County School District

By Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) Douglas County School District’s board of education president, Mike Peterson, added a redlined version of the district’s equity policy to this week’s board of education meeting agenda, giving the public a first look at what changes he’d like the board to consider.

From the agenda, it’s clear the revisions are Peterson’s alone, not the work of him and director Elizabeth Hanson. At an earlier board meeting, Peterson said the two would work together privately to bring forward potential changes.

It’s unclear if the two met. Still, Hanson emphatically stated from the dais that she didn’t believe there needed to be any changes.

Hanson also stated that she believed all seven board members should workshop the policy together.

Board director David Ray said he was dumbfounded when Peterson announced that he would bring forward his proposed policy revisions, especially considering every line of the policy is linked to a bank of research and best practices in these areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Peterson said the group would meet on May 8, giving each director an opportunity to provide input and work out what they will eventually vote on at the end of that month. He said his revisions should serve as a starting point.He doesn’t expect the board to reach a consensus during the 40 minutes allotted this week, nor will there be a vote.

Peterson’s suggestions

Peterson said the current policy remains intact as a starting point, with the only exception being the board directing the superintendent to establish any councils, cabinet positions, or other roles as she sees fit for implementation purposes.

“I, as one board director, think it’s an overstep to require the superintendent to have a superintendent council (in this case, the Equity Advisory Council).

“Everything else is just additions,” he said.

Those additions include four categories related to the definition of diversity, including personality, identity, thought, and instrumental. It’s unclear where the definitions come from or the thinking behind including them in the policy.

He also suggests adding a section to explain the policy's purpose. The draft includes additional language on providing support for students to reach their individual potential and empowering educators and staff.

Frustration over simultaneous policies

Last month, superintendent Erin Kane brought the results of a parent, educator, staff, and community survey to the board, showing there isn’t much division over the policy itself, but that fears center on how it will be implemented.

As a result, her staff hasn’t recommended any specific revisions and has started working on a regulatory policy defining how equity will be carried out in the district.

Kane will discuss her team’s work for the board this week, despite not having a final board-approved equity policy to work from.

Ray explained the procedural sequence of any board policy is for the superintendent to define and guide the implementation, monitor the results, and report back to the board.

“With the educational equity policy, the procedure has been discombobulated with prematurely asking the community’s perceptions and with board directors proposing revisions before implementation has been defined and measured,” said Ray.

“When educational policy is changed in response to a politically charged issue, it causes further polarization of the community and creates confusion for our educators. This is the unfortunate implication of reactionary attempts to "dismantle" a policy instead of seeking a thoughtful understanding of current practices and implementation.”

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I tell the stories of Douglas County school district administrators, staff, teachers, parents, children, and community members who call this county their home. I aim to inform the public on issues big or small related to the school district that matter to those with a vested interest.

Denver, CO

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