The Kingston City School District’s continuing efforts to establish a culturally responsive system of education for the benefit of all its students are well on their way, and once the results of a districtwide survey are collated, they should be even more directly implemented.
“We’ve only just begun,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino during a meeting of the School Board held on Wednesday, March 22. “The jumping off point for a lot of this work is going to be when you receive the results of our equity and climate culture survey.”
Padalino presented the update alongside Kathy Sellitti, the district’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. The superintendent noted that the framework of the program was established by the New York State Education Department as a three-phased road map, beginning with steps to raise awareness, moving on to building capacity, and finally, full implementation. Padalino said that Kingston’s progress has been less linear than the phased roadmap might indicate.
“We find ourselves kind of all over in the phases, which isn’t bad,” Padalino said. “There are things that we’ve already started to do. We have a scattering right now in each of the phases. A real focus is to get that Phase 1 completed, but even with things we’ve done in the past we tend to fall into some Phase 2 and Phase 3 completion.”
With Phase 1 focused on raising awareness and support for establishing a culturally responsive and sustaining framework, the KCSD has already presented virtual or face-to-face sessions in three of its school buildings, with more planned in the near future, along with an administrative summer retreat. Other Phase 1 activities, like publishing framework briefs and the roadmap on the district website, have also been achieved, but there are others that will have to wait until the surveys are complete and the data analyzed.
The surveys will also yield a curriculum audit to help ensure the district’s lessons work within the culturally responsive framework, including identifying inclusiveness and implicit biases to the extent practicable.
Sellitti said there were five different surveys focusing on specific groups: Secondary students, elementary students, parents and guardians, instructional staff, and non-instructional staff. Breaking up the student surveys made sense, Sellitti said.
“We figured secondary students we would be able to get the most information from, and the student response is good,” Sellitti said. “That’s thanks to our principals and our teachers, who gave the kids time in the classroom (to fill them out).”
Student surveys include a range of categories, from cultural diversity awareness to school climate, from teacher and student relationships to a sense of belonging and engagement.
The results of the surveys are anticipated to be presented to the Board of Education before the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Work in Phase 2 is largely planned to begin in September 2023, including professional development, the creation of student-based groups and committees, and equity committees which will also include some students.
Phase 3 implementation is partly underway, with policy review underway in School Board committees, with the Teaching and Learning Committee receiving regular updates and presentations. The next step in Phase 3 is curriculum writing, which is planned for this summer. Other Phase 3 efforts will unfold after the survey data is analyzed, with some including ongoing community engagement and self-assessment to ensure the program is a success into the future.
But the function of a culturally responsive and sustaining educational environment isn’t intended to be static.
“This is going to be ongoing work,” Padalino said. “We’re not going to have a completely reviewed curriculum with a lens of equity in place in September 2023 or September 2024 for that matter.”
The next meeting of the KCSD Board of Education is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18, where trustees are expected to adopt the 2023-24 budget.