A message from Superintendent Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Dear Board Members,
This week, which marks the last week of our 4th Quarter, certainly has been eventful. Throughout this week, our district has been holding celebrations of the accomplishments of our students, staff, families, and community members. Some of these celebrations are high school commencement events, while others mark the completion of elementary school, middle school, or a particular grade level. In addition to offering all of us an opportunity to recognize the growth and progression of our students toward being ready for college, careers, and the community, these celebrations allow us to do what David O'Conner characterizes as “unpacking what we know.” Therefore, we find ourselves simultaneously cheering accomplishments, while reflecting on our collective journey to refine policies and practices which enable us to eliminate disparities and accelerate learning for all students.
As we unpack our current knowledge, we exercise cultural humility by acknowledging areas where we need to grow. For example, at our Senior Leadership Team retreat this week, we calibrated on the use of gender-biased language such as referring to a group of professionals with multiple gender identities as “you guys.” Each of us committed to challenging ourselves (individually and collectively) to address our usage of similar language which marginalizes students, colleagues, families, and community members, even when done unknowingly or without intentions of malice.
As we continue to unpack our current understanding, we must make efforts to consciously understand and address inequities. Therefore, we are partnering with Dr. Jerlando Jackson, from the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (WeiLab) to conduct an equity audit. According to DPI and the U.S. Department of Education, our achievement disparities are such that 36/45 (80%) of our eligible schools merit ESSA identification. We cannot successfully complete our journey from “good" to “great" if we continue to lead our state (which leads the nation in educational disparities) in achievement inequities. We look forward to receiving the audit report in August.
In order to address disparities and accelerate learning for all students, we will need adequate resources. However, the recent budget from the Joint Finance Committee, if passed, will expand opportunity gaps and augment the need for school districts to choose between “doing what is right and doing what is right.” Therefore, we are continuing to work with our Big 5 colleagues and other allies to advocate for our state legislators to appropriately fund our schools.
Thanks for your continued support and partnership. We look forward to providing you with more updates on our district’s progress next week.
Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.