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Equity Fellows schools confront systemic racism

By Maya Dorsey

Opportunity should not depend on the color of your skin or where you live. Unfortunately, it does. Too often Black and brown families in our community don’t get an equitable chance at success. Each one of us has to work to end the systemic racism that allows these realities to exist. They are real and have been for too long.


Learn to Earn Dayton and the Montgomery County Educational Service Center are focused on ending these kinds of disparities by expanding and improving educational opportunities for young people — our next generation of workers.


As part of that work, we’ve created the Equity Fellows program. Five school districts are participating and helping create more culturally responsive, anti-racist schools.


Now in its third year, the program is partnering with Dayton Public Schools, Northmont City Schools, Dayton Early College Academy, Kettering City Schools and Trotwood-Madison City Schools.


Equity Fellows work with teams at their schools to identify practices that — however unintentionally — harm students of color, causing them to perform below their peers. They are diving deep into policies and data, inviting staff to consider their biases (which we all have) and creating opportunities for intentional conversations about what must change to cultivate trust and improve student learning.


At Trotwood-Madison Middle School, a group of Equity Fellows are in their second year.


Principal Daniel Gibson leads a team that includes two teachers and the school’s restorative justice coordinator. His Equity Fellows initiated building-wide book studies and “talking time” to help staff create strategies that benefit the diverse students and families they serve.


Mr. Gibson said, “As a result of this equity work, my school has become more intentional with creating ‘safe spaces’ to have difficult conversations about race and equity.”


Trotwood-Madison Middle School Restorative Justice Coordinator Karla Clay-Alexander shared that the Equity Fellows experience has helped her become more respectful of other cultures and more sensitive to racial injustice. All of the members of the school team agree about making equity a priority.


Novelist James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” That’s what the Equity Fellows are courageously tackling — hard, sensitive work that requires openness, reflection and collaboration and that is making our community more just.


Maya Dorsey is Learn to Earn Dayton’s Director of Equity and Collaborative Impact.