Work on school equity continues: community engagement is included in the framework


Erin Karlgaard, a third-grade teacher at Lowell Elementary School and coordinator of the working group, briefed the Brainerd school board on Monday, November 8, on the work the group has done since its formation in fall 2020.

“While the district and school board saw the need for equity work through their data and community conversations about student experiences, there was no clear vision of what it should look like. », She declared. “There is no guide to ensure success in setting up the How To Do The Job to make sure everyone feels safe, supported and for all students to be successful within our community. It just doesn’t exist. We had to spend a lot of time talking about our history and sometimes the wounds caused by decisions and experiences, and the working group had a great time creating definitions for our work.

The working group – which includes district staff, administrators, board members, and community members – reviewed school district-specific data to propose a framework for equity work. This framework includes eight different areas of work:

  • Student assistance service,

  • Curriculum and evaluation,

  • Hiring / retention,

  • Behavior / interventions,

  • District policies and procedures,

  • Student experiences and activities,

  • Student safety and engagement, and

  • Community involvement.

“We’re looking at each of these umbrellas one at a time, and we’ll be looking at our district data to see what is working, and we’ll be looking for areas where barriers exist for our students,” Karlgaard said. “For example, when we look at student experiences and activities, we have a plethora of extracurricular opportunities available for students outside of the school day that statistically contribute to social and academic success. But if students cannot return home after these activities have ended, they cannot access these opportunities. This is just a very small example of how we need to dig into each of these areas and look at what we do and how it works impacts all of our students, whether in a positive or negative way. “

-, “- Charles Black Lance.

The framework is a living document and will be used as a starting point for district work and modified as needed.

Karlgaard stressed that the working group is not a decision-making body. The role of the group is to review the data, seek equity in each element of the framework, and provide assistance, suggested guidelines or questions to ask district leaders and decision-makers.

“That way the equity team will end up getting rid of a job because the intention is that every facet and department in our district is making the work their own for themselves,” she said. . “Right now, the plan is that each of these umbrellas can take up two months of our working time, but we need to allocate the time necessary to make sure our work is thorough and meaningful.”

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District staff will learn about the framework during a training day on November 29 and receive training on implicit biases and deficit thinking. Karlgaard and other members of the Equity Working Group will lead the training so that the work can focus on the perspective of Brainerd Public Schools.

To fulfill the community engagement element of the framework, the working group will organize various community dialogue sessions. The first event is scheduled for December 7 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will focus on the fairness framework and implicit biases – the same content as the staff on duty. Other sessions will follow in January, March and May, with specific dates to be announced later.

“I think it’s really important that the information we share during our in-service training is also publicly available, and I will bring the same information that we share on the day of in-service training, but this is also a dialogue, and therefore I want to leave space and honor the fact that our community must also be part of this work “, said Karlgaard.” This is why we thought it was important to have them as umbrella within this framework of equity. ”

A student experience survey was to be sent to all families in the district this week, and these responses will also be discussed during the training day.

RELATED: Brainerd Public Schools: New Equity Task Force Begins Work

Board chair Ruth Nelson said she liked the blueprint and particularly appreciated community engagement.

Board member Charles Black Lance – who also sits on the equity committee – said he looked forward to community dialogue, especially on issues such as fairness and equality, that he said that many people might not have a clear understanding at the moment.

“Fairness, of course, being an individual’s circumstances and needs, and equality is just about making sure everyone has the same resources,” Black Lance said, noting that there appears to be have some confusion, which is acceptable and can hopefully be corrected through constructive dialogue.

At the end of his presentation, Karlgaard reminded those listening that the goal of all equity work is to benefit students and make sure they feel loved, heard and understood. .

“As a teacher, I went into every school year telling my kids on the first day of school that I loved them like they were my own kids. And my two kids are different, and so I think this job, I watch it because we love every student in this neighborhood as if it was our own. So what does that mean? she said. “We need to take care of it and look at our data, and we’re looking at some experiences in our district, not elsewhere. And then we say, “What are the needs of our district and how can we best meet those needs for our students?” “”

For more information on the district equity work and task force, visit

THERESA BOURKE can be contacted at [email protected] or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at


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