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Eanes ISD

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FAQ

*Most recent FAQ is at the top

Why did the Board renew Dr. Gooden’s contract at the June 22 meeting?

In the Board’s Strategic Summit in January of 2021, Trustees identified DEI as a priority for the school district. They acknowledged in July and August of 2020 support from someone with a deep understanding of DEI and of school policies and procedures would be necessary. Dr. Mark Gooden, Chair of the Dept. of Organization and Principal Leadership at Columbia University, was ultimately selected as a consultant for the 2020-21 school year because of both his knowledge of and experience working with schools on DEI-related issues and his knowledge of school leadership as a professor in this area. 

The Board renewed Dr. Gooden’s contract because they believe the work he has done thus far has been most helpful in moving the district forward with the goals focused on DEI.

Why is the District sending out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for a DEI consultant for curriculum?

One of the Board’s goals is to embed, over time, the ongoing importance of DEI in curricula, instructional materials and resources. While there are no plans to implement a separate curriculum, we recognize our teachers need support in addressing both DEI-related questions from students and current course curricula given the national discussion around this topic.  Ultimately, we want our teachers to create and support a classroom environment that is welcoming and inclusive of all students.

How much has Dr. Gooden’s contract cost the District?

For the 2020-21 school year, Dr. Gooden billed approximately $140,000 out of a budgeted $170,000.

What prompted the work around DEI?

In the spring and summer of 2020, alumni, current students and parents shared numerous concerns around school climate and their feeling unaccepted, unwelcome and sometimes even experiencing racial or ethnic slurs and jokes about who they are. These were extremely hurtful to them and diminished their experience in school. The district then made the decision to hire an expert in this area to advise the Board of Trustees on necessary steps.

What were the results of the survey given to staff last August?

The survey was extensive - up to 50 questions - for some groups and was given to both instructional and non-instructional staff. Presentation slides from the May 11 Board Meeting are available on the district website. The most important takeaway or conclusion is staff feel they need more training around DEI and feel the district has not talked about this as a district in any depth. As we have subsequently learned through meetings with staff, teachers want to be educated around DEI because students are talking about this. Students are interested, either because they have experienced or observed uncomfortable interactions with their peers or because they are aware of and curious about what is happening in the world around them.

What is the focus of the DEI work for our district?

The Board-adopted primary goal for DEI is to improve school climate by increasing the access and belongingness of all students, including those with religious, gender identity, cultural, ability and economic differences.

Eanes ISD is a strong community with excellent students and outstanding programs. School climates must be welcoming to ALL of our students. This is about treating each other with respect and empathy.

Some have said by focusing on a climate that emphasizes respect for all, we are making others feel bad about themselves.

One of the pillars of an education in Eanes ISD is learning to think critically and to have a broad understanding of the complexities of a global society. The Eanes ISD Graduate Profile articulates the desire for students to have an appreciation of and respect for other cultures. 

Students read about and study various groups in history as a part of their Social Studies and Language Arts curricula, among others. While studying history or reading a book about people who were or are mistreated may be uncomfortable, it is through learning about the struggles of others one can develop empathy and deepen an understanding of other people and cultures. 

Students, for example, have always studied social studies in elementary and middle school and World Geography, World History, U,S. History, and Economics. They learn about major events and talk about how those events have impacted history. For example, when studying World War II, they learn about the German persecution of the Jewish people. Similarly, in U.S. History, they learn about slavery and its impact on history. In neither situation are students made to feel bad about themselves. They were not alive during either of those events and they are not responsible for what happened at that time. They are also not responsible for actions they have no control over that happen around the world every day. It is not unusual, however, for students to feel empathy for others, especially when there is an injustice of some kind. Feeling empathy is very different from feeling blame. 

Are DEI and Critical Race Theory (CRT) the same thing?

No, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) “training” but a theoretical approach typically used by scholars to interpret happenings in society through scholarly engagement. That process, which originated in the legal academy, involves interrogating race and racism in society and it has spread to other fields of scholarship, typically taught in law schools, graduate schools and some undergraduate colleges, but not high school.

While our DEI training addresses race and racism, it is not the same as CRT that is commonly used in the academy. We are not teaching Critical Race Theory. We are teaching that we need to treat ALL people with dignity and respect. To be clear, the focus of our DEI training is to develop racial awareness as an initial step to deepening understanding of equity and how it can be used to improve access and increase belongingness of all students.

What about the DEI curriculum? How will there be time for the strong academics Eanes has always had?

There are no plans to immediately introduce a separate DEI curriculum to our schools. If that should be something the district wants to pursue in the future, the Board of Trustees must first review and adopt any new curricula according to process and policy.

DEI seeks to strengthen the relationships of teachers and their peers, teachers and their students, and students’ relationships with other students - all of which contributes to a stronger academic culture. (Why Teacher-Student Relationships Matter)

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill focused on the teaching of CRT. How will that impact Eanes and DEI?

First, Dr. Gooden shared in the Community Webinar on May 13 that DEI and CRT are not the same thing. Eanes ISD is not teaching Critical Race Theory. See FAQ above regarding CRT.

At the end of the legislative session, any bills passed that impact education will then go to the Texas Education Agency for implementation. It will be necessary to see what TEA’s interpretation is of any bills pertaining to DEI before making a decision about whether Eanes ISD must adjust accordingly.

We have also heard that the DEI Advisory Committee is not diverse and does not represent the majority of the district?

The Board-appointed DEI Advisory Committee has 27 members, with students, parents, staff and community members. These individuals were selected by the Board from an applicant pool of more than 260 individuals. Each of Eanes ISD’s nine schools has both a parent and staff representative, with community and district representation as well. Secondary schools have students who applied for and were selected to serve on the committee. Diverse backgrounds and viewpoints comprise the committee.

The committee application stipulated the following:
Eanes ISD Trustees will identify up to 27 preferred candidates for the committee based on experience or interest and with Dr. Gooden’s assistance. Consideration will be given to people with an interest in DEI work or those who have particular expertise in DEI, as well as to the diversity of the committee itself. 

DEI Advisory Committee members must:

  • Live in the Eanes community or be a student or staff attending or working at one of our schools
  • Attend evening and weekend meetings as necessary (remotely)
  • Base their recommendations on objective information and relevant data, and not on any singular issue or personal viewpoints
  • Serve an initial two-year term unless determined otherwise.                       

Membership of the DEI Advisory Committee:

  • 2 Community Members without students currently enrolled in EISD schools
  • 4 Students (2 from middle school (grades 6-7) and 2 from Westlake High School (grades 9-11))
  • 9 Staff (1 from each school)
  • 2 Principals (1 from elementary and 1 from secondary)
  • 1 Central Administration Staff
  • 9 Parents (1 from each school)
  • Dr. Gooden facilitating (with Linda Rawlings coordinating)
     
What are the next steps?

The goal is to continue to provide staff development around DEI so Eanes ISD educators are better prepared for the responsibility of supporting a climate of acceptance and belonging for ALL students. Each school (the elementary campuses will start this in the fall of 2021) has an Equity Team that will support the work on their respective campus.

How do we get more people involved?

The Equity Team on each campus will be instrumental in getting more students, staff and parents involved as campus projects, activities, etc. around DEI are shared. Community meetings and Webinars around DEI are also planned so the community stays informed and connected to the work.

How do you define Equity as it pertains to education?

Equity in education is a goal supported by a critical consciousness that is closely connected to actions implemented to provide fair access to the curriculum, create a welcoming climate and a safe space to grow for all children. Equity in education means looking at our systems to see whether we are truly providing equal opportunities and access for all children.

In what ways are you considering and using student voice as this work moves forward?

Student voices are prominent through organized Student Focus Groups at the secondary level. Students are also constantly thinking of ways to get involved, and those activities are unique to each campus. For example, some of the WHS Robotics students have been actively engaged in talking about DEI and how they can support the work (e.g. how can opportunities be created for more females to be involved in STEM fields, etc.).

What do we do when a racially motivated event is identified?

If an incident occurs on a campus, the principal investigates and then takes action based on that investigation. The intent is to educate students as a part of this process because sometimes they don’t realize the words they are using or the joke they may tell is hurtful to another person. Sometimes they do know and that is not acceptable and must be made clear.

What is the measure of success of the DEI initiative? How will you know if your initiative is working?

We will have an improved school climate that is accepting of ALL students.

How does the district communicate about DEI updates?

In the past year, there have been regular updates at both Board meetings and at special DEI community presentations. Both formats will continue as avenues - among many others - to make the work of DEI more transparent, including principal newsletters and social media as well as the Eanes ISD website. The district continues to work with local media to share updates.

How can parents access and review DEI activities/content/curriculum on their own campus?

We do not teach a DEI curriculum; instead we focus on ensuring we have a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment in our schools and classrooms.  Teachers teach the TEKS and provide parents with instructional topics they will be covering in their classes.  In grades 6-12, a teacher might provide a syllabus and also outline at the Parent Orientation topics to be covered and taught.  In the elementary school, teachers also provide communication in weekly newsletters outlining the topics and materials either covered the prior week or to be looking for in the upcoming week.  Teachers provide this information at the beginning of the school year at parent orientation.  Parents are also welcomed and encouraged to communicate with their child’s teacher should they have questions.