ROCORI parents concerned about teacher training on equity and possible policy changes

(KNSI) — Some parents in the ROCORI school district have raised concerns about a signed contract with the Equity Literacy Institute (ELI) group and an equity committee. In June, the district signed the $41,000 agreement with ELI for staff training and consulting. This formation worries Angie Ninsinger who has a pupil of 4th and 7th in the district.

“I don’t think using an organization like the Equity Literacy Institute is what our community wants or what I want to teach our teachers because it will trickle down to our classrooms. They have direct contact with our students.

Angie accuses ELI of using reverse discrimination to solve social problems.

“ELI seeks to solve discrimination with discrimination. And it doesn’t work.

Angie says, for example, the ROCORI School District received recommendations from ELI to change the wording of the district’s harassment policy to protect only protected classrooms, not all students. She says the school board rejected this piece. But she says there are plenty of other policies that ELI has touched on that the school board has yet to review.

“They divert the attention of all our children and place it on certain children. And my point of view, and I speak on behalf of the group of parents who have similar concerns, is that we want all of our children to be counted.

Angie says one of the goals is to increase the graduation rate for Hispanic students and increase the reading scores of students who receive free and discounted lunches.

“Why do these goals marginalize individuals when we could really work to set goals that cover all of our students?”

Angie says she has concerns about an equity committee. She demands to know who controlled the organization? Who is on this committee? How are people chosen to be part of this committee? Are parents welcome to this committee? She says that to date none of these questions have been answered. KNSI News reached out to ROCORI Superintendent Brad Kelvington and school board members, but they did not respond to a recorded interview request.

An email sent by school board president Jennifer Bohnsack said: “The contract with ELI has ended. Although they provided feedback on a selection of our policies and manuals, ultimately the school board will decide which language suggestions, if any, will be adopted.

In further emailed statements, Bohnsack said ROCORI has contracted with the Equity Literacy Institute for equity audit and professional development. This contract covered up to $41,000 of work, but the district opted out of the focus group and was billed $31,000 for ELI’s services. These services included teacher training and community training in August 2021 as well as a review and recommendations on certain policies and textbooks.

Bohnsack says the school district’s policy and manual review process will not necessarily result in acceptance of all changes recommended by ELI without significant review and consideration by the policy committee and school board as a whole. .

As we move through this process, the email reads, we are committed to being transparent about precisely the manual and policy changes ELI suggests. These changes will be reviewed and discussed with the same degree of depth as changes suggested by others, including counsel, the Minnesota School Boards Association Model Policy Department, and individual board members or directors. The steering committee and school board conduct these reviews and discussions at public meetings.

The council also addressed some of the parents’ concerns about REACh (ROCORI Equity Advisory Chamber). The district says the committee aims to ensure that school district leaders are made aware of diverse perspectives. It consists of school district leaders, students, community members (including parents), employees, and multicultural liaisons.

She says the school district has not blocked any members of the public from attending REACh meetings. Officials say people should be aware that there are many students on the REACh committee and large crowds might make them less comfortable sharing their experiences.

Bohnsack said she welcomes members of the ROCORI community who have questions about ELI, our policy adoption process, REACh or any other part of this work to contact her directly.

Angie says there hasn’t been good communication from the district, and she hopes it will improve in the future.

“I would like our school district to be very transparent about, you know, what they have, what they are, Eli got his hands on, so we can, you know, make sure the policies cover all students, that this thing, that, that it’s about equality and opportunity for all, not equity.

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