The Flagstaff Unified School District is asking for students, teachers, parents, and community members to join an Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Task Force. The goal is to find ways to foster inclusion and belonging for all students, addressing concerns that school leadership is predominately white while more than half of students are Black or Hispanic. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with FUSD board member Kara Kelty, who is of the co-chairs of the task force.
Melissa Sevigny: Kara, tell me why this task force is needed.
Kara Kelty: Two years ago we passed a strategic plan and we had some goals in there to increase our recruiting practices so we could have a more diverse staff. We have not made as much progress as any of us would like to see. As these issues are coming up, in terms of recognition of racism and structural racism in our community and within the school district, we wanted to revisit not only the strategic plan, but what are the barriers? Why have we not been as successful as we wanted to be?... What’s important to me is to examine how we’re not living up to the mission and vision that we established for FUSD and then bridge those gaps. In order to get there we have to hold up a mirror of the experience of those who may have felt disenfranchised, and make an effort to repair that hurt, and then identify solutions so that we can ensure that we truly are a school district that is committed to equity and inclusion and diversity.
You spoke about structural racism within the school district. Can you give me some examples of what you mean by that?
When I got on the school board I initiated a student advisory committee. I remember one meaning, we initiated an activity on bullying. And it was very clear that the white students who were part of the advisory committee said, “Bullying is not really an issue, I don’t see it and I don’t experience it.” The students of color had a completely different experience. The second thing is, looking at our recruiting practices, our hiring practices, our staff and our leadership, and thinking, if I was a student and I didn’t see myself represented—I didn’t have a teacher who looked like me, I didn’t see leadership who looked like me—what would that message be? Especially in education where we tell students, you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want, is that legitimate for students if they don’t see themselves represented daily in their lives?
As we’re seeing more attention brought to racism in different aspects of our society, we’re seeing calls for change in the police force example, or politics or the health care system—why do you think it’s important to address this in our public schools?
It’s critical to address it in our public schools because this is the next generation of leaders. We want our students to have every opportunity to understand the past, explore history, and understand they can have an impact in the future. It’s also critical that we take charge of our destiny. A lot of our textbooks are disproportionately influenced by one state, the state of Texas, just because of the economics of curriculum. If we want to educate our students to understand, have cultural awareness of our community, our state, our country, then we need to be creative, and we also have to have that willingness to do things differently.
Kara Kelty, thanks so much for speaking with me today.
Thanks for having me.
The deadline to apply for the task force is today at 5pm. You can find more information on FUSD’s website.