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School board tackles race

Coons pushes discussion, asks for plan addressing teaching diversity

SOLON Dan Coons thinks something needs to happen.
The Solon school board member wants to know what the district is going to do to address racism.
He asked the question during the final moments of the June 18 board meeting, during an agenda item (Talking Points) reserved for reflection and observation.
Coons said he sent the other board members an email expressing his desire to discuss the recent national struggle to deal with race relations.
Acknowledging not everyone has the same experiences or issues, Coons said the district should consider what to do as a district across the grade spectrum.
At the elementary level, some cultural issues are addressed through social studies, he said, But we have such limited social studies time now.
Coons asked for a thoughtful consideration of the problem.
I think wed be foolish to not have a plan of some sort when we come back, however that looks, he said.
Board president Tim Brown said he and Superintendent Davis Eidahl talked about the subject a few weeks earlier.
For the last 10 years, Brown said, the board adopted a process of continuous improvement, identifying what the district is doing well, what needs to be enhanced and then creating a plan.
Because we dont do everything perfect. Theres always something we can improve on, he said. If we keep focusing on what can we do better, that helps us move in the right direction.
It doesnt necessarily mean the district is doing a bad job, but rather it isnt where it needs to be or situations have changed and current practice no longer fits, he added.
Brown agreed the district needs to be proactive.
We want to be supportive of all our students and it worries me if some of our students have not felt as supported as we would have liked them to have felt, he said. What can we do better to make sure that all of our students feel valued, regardless of their background, regardless of their current circumstance, across the board?
The boards mission statement is to Engage each and every student in rigorous and relevant experiences, maximizing achievement through exceptional teaching.
If were not, we need to figure out how to do that, Brown observed.
Eidahl reported on a recent conversation with the districts administrative team, noting a similar desire to identify areas of improvement with perspective from students and staff.
Solon Intermediate School Principal Jessica Tabor, who is also assuming duties at Lakeview Elementary, decided to meet individually with all of Lakeviews teachers, Eidahl said.
He related a summary of one conversation where a teacher had praise for the districts efforts to build up classroom libraries, providing every student with immediate access to reading materials.
But recent national events prompted the teacher to inventory the library to determine how diversity and people of color are represented, he reported.
Eidahl said it was an example of how the district can be deliberate in addressing the issue.
Were doing an injustice if were teaching social studies as an isolated single period throughout the day, he said.
The school can teach social studies throughout the whole day by infusing reading time with specific non-fiction texts aligned to the grade level topic, he added.
Weaving literacy throughout science, social studies, with the type of material that weve purchased all year long, he continued. And we can be very intentional with just the simple tasks of what types of resources are we ordering that were using to educate our kids in Solon and are those resources exposing our kids to the broad and diverse world?
Coons noted the most important thing is for the district to talk about it now, have continuing discussions and keep it in the forefront.
Im proud about this district, when we get behind something, we do a great job, he said. I wouldnt suspect this would be any different.