There have been accusations lately that critical race theory was taught at our Arizona School Boards Association Equity Event, April 21-23.
The event has been held every year for the last seven years. To be clear, critical race theory was never discussed nor presented in our event. The agenda topics focused on educational equity with a special focus on culture, race and ethnicity this year.
Since the founding of the Equity Event, we have unwrapped the many influences, characteristics and circumstances that impact our students and contribute to gaps in opportunity and outcomes, among them family income, access to food and shelter, physical and cognitive ability, gender and gender identity, immigration status, and even the location of the student’s home and the district itself. Culture, race and ethnicity intersect with all those factors and are woven deeply into the lives of each and every student we serve.
It is part of our foundational premises.
Yes, equity is inclusive of race and ethnicity, but extends well beyond it. Educational equity means advocating for greater opportunity, access and inclusion for all students.
We believe the following foundational premises:
•Student achievement and positive student outcomes must be the central focus of the work of school boards.
•Opportunity gaps exist in every school and in every district;
•School boards are responsible for setting the expectations and making decisions that support educators in closing opportunity gaps;
•School boards must have trusting and collaborative relationships with the many communities they serve to be successful in these endeavors and model this for district staff;
•Educational equity is an ongoing journey, not a fixed destination.
Accepting that boards are responsible for student outcomes, that inequities that impact student outcomes exist and that boards have a key role in identifying and addressing those inequities, is necessary to move forward.
This specific event has always been open to members and the community for registration with the overall goal to help school board leaders and districts identify gaps in opportunity and outcomes for their school communities and find ways to close these gaps so that every student can reach their full potential.
During this event we had three main keynote speakers that spoke on equity topics and about 30 presenters during our breakout sessions and pre-conference.
The week after we heard KTAR make remarks targeting the only two Black leaders who spoke at our invitation and sadly singled out and mischaracterized them. KTAR not once reached out to ASBA nor the two speakers for information or background content. You can read the statement about this on our website.
ASBA’s commitment to equity is deep and reflected in the association’s beliefs, goals, services and actions.
Editor’s note: Sheila Harrison-Williams is the Arizona School Boards Association Executive Director.