Making Black History Month part of the ongoing district culture

February 1, 2019 Staff Writer

February is Black History Month, and the following article on that topic was written by Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora and Director of Categorical Programs Lisa Broomfield of Moreno Valley Unified School District.

Teaching about the importance of Black History Month in the Moreno Valley Unified School District is part of an ongoing imperative. We believe that we are constantly building a culture that naturally celebrates, honors, and is inquisitive about the diverse contributions of people from diverse backgrounds. When February comes each year, members of the MVUSD community are poised to seamlessly incorporate teaching about the contributions of Black Americans into their lessons. It is evident that Black students are part of the MVUSD family, and practices that create a sense of pride and belonging for these students is a benefit for all students.

Culture is the most powerful force in any organization. The policies, practices and procedures of the organization help determine the culture; and we have instituted policies that contribute to all stakeholders becoming more culturally aware, culturally sensitive and action-oriented toward social justice. We have made it a priority to offer our staff trainings and workshops that enable teachers, counselors, classified staff and administrators to be more culturally aware and sensitive.

In January, we invited Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., the executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University, to present to a group of Moreno Valley USD leaders about school practices that empower equity and excellence. Johnson’s model identifies the three empowering school characteristics as challenging curricula, effective instruction and positive transformational culture.

We have also made it a priority to send our educators on the annual Footsteps to Freedom tour during the summer months. This tour takes educators to the Midwest so they can learn firsthand how enslaved Americans gained freedom along the Underground Railroad. It is an impactful and emotional journey that provides our staff with a new understanding of the sacrifices made by African Americans on their struggle for freedom.

Our Equity Learning Walks are another powerful district-wide practice that we have added to ensure a culturally respectful atmosphere. Equity Learning Walks occur 10 times a year within our district. The purpose of equity walks is to sharpen and focus the instructional leadership lens and allow the gathering of observational data to confirm or challenge assumptions regarding school improvement, culturally proficient practices and equity throughout the school. Equity walks support ongoing monitoring of implementation of equity action plans. The observational data remains tacit unless there is specific collegial feedback to staff to engage them in reflecting on instruction, assessment and student-staff relationships.

Site principals prepare for the equity walk by providing site maps, bell schedules and a meeting space for the participants. Teachers are told the purpose of the walk so they can be prepared to show their best strategies. The Equity Learning Walk focuses on data analysis, public areas classroom learning environment, instructional core and differentiated instruction. After the walk is concluded, the participants have a debrief session. Participants share findings and ask clarifying questions of the site principal. The principal receives feedback from the group about emerging themes, equity successes and areas for improvement. The participants make connections that will be included in the continual improvement of the Equity Action Plan for that site.

The African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) is a very impactful group that influences the teaching and learning that occurs year-round. This active and empowered group of parents meet monthly at individual school sites to discuss how teaching practices and district policies can be improved to help their children feel valued and capable. They have opportunities to comment on instructional practices, concepts, discipline and ways to improve interventions and enrichment. Members of AAPAC attend national conferences to share the contributions they are making in MVUSD, thereby increasing the chances that more African American families will have an opportunity to positively affect the educational experience of their children.

Our district takes pride in embracing, celebrating and acknowledging the contributions of African Americans. We offer multiple engagement opportunities for our families. Some examples include African American Girls Tea, Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success, African American Baccalaureate Service for graduating seniors, STEAM Unity Expo, individualized mentoring, participation in the community’s African American Family Reunion and more.

In February each year, we add even more opportunities to celebrate Black History Month. By opening our schools to events like Black History Month celebrations that include keynote speakers, soul food and student performances, we increase our opportunity for valuable engagement with our families. There is a district brochure created that publicizes each school’s celebrations and events as we celebrate this important month. Our district also participates in community events like the Riverside Black History Parade and Moreno Valley College MLK Scholarship Breakfast.

The practices in MVUSD are constantly monitored and revised to be responsive to the needs of all students. We have amazing leadership that ensures policies are acted upon, and not just discussed. We set the tone from the district office and model what we expect. Our administration has been recognized with multiple awards for our vision and actions in helping African American families. The African American Coalition of Riverside with the Outstanding African American Educator Award will honor Superintendent Kedziora on Feb. 9. We are proud that this endless commitment and dedication to community will be noticed. Along with our board of education, MVUSD has a spirit of collaborative leadership that is the norm. Groups of parent, teachers, classified employees, community and student groups are all given voice in decisions that affect education. Because of these inclusive practices and the diversity of people contributing to decisions, we ensure that Black History Month is part of an overall plan to honor and promote all cultures that benefits all families.

More information about Moreno Valley USD can be found at www.mvusd.net.

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