By Dennis L. Carpenter, Ed.D

What a start to the school year! We’ve had such a smooth transition into the 2018-2019 school year. For that I want to thank our great faculty, staff, parents and most importantly students. You all make me proud to serve as your leader.

As we’ve been gearing up for and starting this new year, I’ve made it a point to be visible in our school district and community. Whether it’s in schools, Sprouts, individual celebrations or the Suburban Balance Annual Fashion Show; I’ve had the opportunity to hear from many of you as I’m going into year two as your school district leader. With that being said, I like what I’m hearing.

I’ve heard a provost from a local university who stated, “I like what you are doing and I see the difference you are attempting to make for all kids. I’m behind you!”

I heard from a parent who thanked me for offering both grace and accountability to her child during an incident that I became aware of last school year.

I’ve heard a parent, by way of a message to the district, thank us for allowing parent/community voices to be a part of the comprehensive facilities master planning process. Put another way, she was thanking us in advance for the opportunity to provide input.

I also heard from many of you who said this year’s back to school convocation was the best one ever and the messages of “common ground” and “we are one” are resonating with you. This makes me excited for what we can accomplish together.

The aforementioned comments are easy for me to hear as our school district’s leader. This is because the comments are affirming the vision being implemented in our district. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t state that there are other voices in the conversation too.

Wondering if Dr. Carpenter is going to stop talking about “his” equity stuff this year – because there is more to talk about.

Wondering if someone (or school) gets more, does someone else (or some other school) have to lose.

Wondering if giving more students access to post-secondary credit and high-skill, high-wage workforce development opportunities lowers the standards of existing school programs.

As the leader of our school district, I too have to hear and honor these voices. Given this imperative, I believe there is value in responding not only with the head but with the heart too. You see, both matter when doing the work of effectively educating all of our community’s children.

On first blush it’s flattering that the “equity stuff” has been attributed to me by some. Wow! And although it’s tempting to embrace this acknowledgment, it would be unfair for me to take credit for a body of educational research and policy making that’s been gaining significant traction for more than 10 years; and one that’s rooted in the U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision.

So, let’s start with a few bulleted items from the head – a few key takeaways from more recent scholarly writings on educational equity:

The National School Boards Association clearly speaks to equity in their beliefs and policies by stating:

Public schools should provide equitable access and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to succeed as contributing members of a rapidly changing, global society, regardless of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, English proficiency, immigration status, socioeconomic status, or disability.

The Center For Public Education (CPE) specifically stated in a January 2016 research brief:

Equity is achieved when all students receive the resources they need so they graduate prepared for success after high school versus a model of

Equity vs equality

equality in which all students are treated the same. As it relates to the issue of educational equity, I could continue leading with the head because there are mounds of scholarly data and local school district data (coming to a presentation near you) to make the case for greater equity in our schools. There is no shortage of information in the field of education in support of educational equity and its benefit to students, local communities and the workforce.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. Leading for the continuous improvement of students who need greater access and opportunity is something I’ve made a priority throughout my career.

Early on, I embraced the value of such leadership and my passion for all young people really comes from the heart of my leadership – my moral core. I guess I’m just idealistic enough to believe in the promise of education for all children. That’s why, when I’m leading with my heart, I reflect on one of Dr. Kent Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments to keep me focused and steadfast:

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway.

For those in this arena for all children, keep at it. For those wondering about the message of access and opportunity for all children, you should jump in; it’s so rewarding.