From October 2018-March 2019, Charlottesville City Schools hosted a series of community forums to receive feedback on our shared goals for equity. This page offers updates and resources related to these forums and recent equity initiatives. For an overview of current programs and commitments that promote equity in our schools, visit our main equity page.
On February 27, Dr. Atkins convened the first meeting of the equity committee. The committee (see list below) is comprised of teachers, staff, parents, School Board members, the Mayor, City employees, and community partners — with members often wearing multiple “hats” of “parent and employee” or “community partner and alumna.” City of Charlottesville Youth Opportunity Coordinator Daniel Fairley co-led the Charlottesville Youth Council’s facilitation of student feedback from CHS and Buford; he along with CHS Principal Dr. Eric Irizarry agreed to serve as a liaisons to the Charlottesville Youth Council and other student groups so that student voice would also be represented.
This advisory committee will help the schools review feedback and determine priorities to help shape the foundational underpinning and the execution of work toward equity in the schools. This committee works alongside others — staff, School Board, other advisory committees, PTOs, etc. — as one of many avenues for accomplishing these goals. We are not trying to make a new “equity” program; instead, we need to assure that equity is the lens through which we view all programs.
Comprised of 33 people, the committee is broken into four work teams:
- Institutional structures: with possible areas of focus such as unleveling classes, school-to-school alignment, program or hiring practices (staff contacts: Eric Irizarry/Jim Henderson)
- Pam Brown
- Sylvia Elder
- Dr. Bernard Hairston
- Joyce Ivory
- Toni Kim
- John Kronstain
- Instructional changes & professional learning (staff contacts: Paula Culver-Dickinson/Patrick Farrell)
- School Board member James Bryant
- Christine Esposito
- Daniel Fairley
- Dr. Daphne Keiser
- Michelle Packer
- Rachel Rasnake
- Dr. Joseph Williams
- Family communication/community engagement and efficacy (staff contacts: Beth Cheuk/Velvet Coleman)
- Pastor Lehman Bates
- Pat Cuomo
- Charlene Green
- Sgt. Robert Haney
- Eric Johnson
- Jessica Taylor
- Policy: equity policy, definitions, equity audit/checklists, metrics (staff contacts: Dr. Rosa Atkins/Dr. Kendra King)
- Melvin Grady
- Dr. Adam Hastings
- Denise Johnson
- School Board member Lisa Larson-Torres
- Becka Saxon
- Mayor Nikuyah Walker
Among their first responsibilities, work groups have been asked to review the Community Priorities for Equity (see next section of this page) as a starting point for determining initial recommendations within their focus areas.
As described below, we conducted a series of 15+ school-based and community events (as well as online opportunities) for staff, students, parents, and community members to share their ideas. In addition to responding to the 32 ideas gleaned from our initial community feedback, community members have continued to share their ideas and feedback through the open-ended response portion of the survey, through contacting staff and School Board members, through meetings, and more. The Charlottesville Youth Council also compiled a list of top themes gathered from the student focus groups they facilitated at CHS and Buford; they met with Dr. Atkins in March to discuss these ideas. These ideas along with earlier feedback submitted by the CHS Black Student Union in October is reflected either in the original 32 ideas or in a list of additional ideas and commentary in the attached document (below). Finally, on March 22, members of the Black Student Union and the Latinx Student Union held a school walk-out to raise awareness for their revised list of strategies for promoting equity.
[As of March 23:] While the School Board and staff have not had time to formally respond to this revised list yet, Board Chair Jennifer McKeever notes, “When I review the list that Black Student Union created, I see many areas in which our schools are actively engaged. Their ideas are very complementary to the work we’ve been doing in our schools. This includes greater security (work begun this week); making changes to the CHS African-American history class to encourage enrollment (included in the Program of Study for 2019-20); and further diversifying classes so that all students learn local and Black history (we are presently one of six school divisions in Virginia to participate in a grant-funded project to embrace ‘hard history’ through a project with Virginia Humanities and community partners.)” As the school division posted on Twitter, “We’re glad to hear you and work with you.” [Update: at their April 11 School Board Meeting, Dr. Atkins and the School Board posted a response to the BSU as part of an Equity Committee Update.]
- Community Priorities for Equity (This document includes a spreadsheet that summarizes the community feedback that we have heard so far. The data on the spreadsheet is accurate through 3/1/19; the “additional ideas” section is largely up to date and includes the Black Student Union’s revised list.)
In the February News and Highlights, Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins offered an update to the community about recent efforts to promote equity. Click here to see the newsletter.
As we continue to gather community input, we have been visiting with city residents in community centers and churches. We held a second gathering for teacher/staff input. We also partnered with the Charlottesville Youth Council to host student-led classroom discussions and gather feedback from students at CHS and Buford. Special thanks to parishioners at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Habitat for Humanity families, CHS students, and others for sharing your input with us. Here is a snapshot of some of these visits.
Our objective for the second forum was to reflect back what we’ve been hearing from the community so far. Our staff and School Board have been seeking community input through events, online tools, emails, and face-to-face conversations. We asked forum participants to respond to a list of 32 main ideas and vote on their “top 10.”
After community members had a chance to review and vote on their top 10 ideas, our moderator, City of Charlottesville Office of Human Rights Manager Charlene Green, presented the results and facilitated a time of questions and comments. The evening continued with remarks about next steps moving forward from Charlottesville City Schools Coordinator of Community Affairs and Development Beth Cheuk, Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins, and School Board Chair Juandiego Wade. Finally, the forum concluded with commentary from each member of the School Board.
- A live stream of the evening’s presentations can be found here.
- Want to share your voice? Visit www.publicinput.com/3575 to vote on your own top 10 or add your own thoughts and comments.
- Results from the online survey are visible to participants. Results from the posters at the event on November 27 may be seen below. In addition, staff members have been visiting community centers, congregations, and CHS to see additional perspectives. These votes are being assembled and will be presented once the process is final.
Results from Equity Forum Statement Stations
Participants were asked to visit 4 statement stations and vote on their top 10 main ideas using stickers. A fifth station was available to add missing or new ideas.
Results from Second Forum – “Top 10” picks from Statement Stations
- Hire and support teachers of color
- Re-examine the Quest (gifted) program
- Focus on systemic barriers
- Continue or expand preschool
- Equip teachers to meet the needs of all students
- Promote student diversity within classrooms
- Support/retain effective teachers and principals
- Keep diversifying libraries/curriculum/activities
- Ensure budget prioritizes equity
- Explore outside factors that impact schools
Next Steps (from December 2018 community newsletter)
From our School Board and Superintendent (see longer message here):
In addition to listening, we are also acting. We are seeking volunteers and nominations for a committee on equity representing a broad coalition of school and community stakeholders. We are doing internal reviews of our data, programs, and efforts. We are mapping resources of sister school divisions and model equity programs so that we can learn from others. The School Board is drafting an equity policy that will guide our practices and lay a foundation for parity.
In short, we continue to listen. We are taking first steps to review and revise our past efforts and plan future action. We are guided by our confidence that your values are our values and that together, we want to seize this moment to make a difference for our community.
On October 23, nearly 500 community members came together at Charlottesville High School for our first Community Forum on Equity. Prior to the meeting, parents were asked to complete a brief pre-survey about their and their students’ experiences at CHS. (See results here.) School representatives, including Superintendent Rosa Atkins, addressed the group and discussed the results of the survey, noting that when the results were filtered by race, the priorities for discussion were slightly different, and the overall “satisfaction” rates were higher for white students/families than for students/families of color.
Participants then split into small moderated groups to discuss the top five areas of concern for the African-American survey-takers. Click here to review comments from the first Community Forum or contribute new ones. You can also find information concerning the main topics discussed.
The school division offered a separate forum for teachers and staff and gathered feedback on the same five topics.
Staff members and volunteers then reviewed the comments captured from the public and staff forums, developing a list of 32 action items that were commonly suggested. These 32 action items then became the basis of the next round of discussion.
- Overview of equity initiatives at Charlottesville City Schools
- Resources relating to the New York Times/ProPublica reporting
Related media coverage
- Mandell, Josh. “City Schools Home in on Equity Goals at Second Forum • Charlottesville Tomorrow.” Charlottesville Tomorrow, 28 Nov. 2018, www.cvilletomorrow.org/articles/city-schools-home-in-on-equity-goals-at-second-forum/.
- Montilla, Desiree. “City School Leaders Host Second Equity Forum.” Charlottesville, Virginia News, Weather, Sports | Newsplex, www.cbs19news.com/content/news/City-school-leaders-host-second-equity-forum-501408701.html.
- Knott, Katherine. “Residents Weigh in on Equity Issues in City Schools.” The Daily Progress, The Daily Progress, 28 Nov. 2018, www.dailyprogress.com/news/education/residents-weigh-in-on-equity-issues-in-city-schools/article_c2f56c9e-f2b9-11e8-8adf-df3b784e1f91.html.
- Mandell, Josh. “Charlottesville City Schools Hosts Community Forum on Equity • Charlottesville Tomorrow.” Charlottesville Tomorrow, 24 Oct. 2018, www.cvilletomorrow.org/articles/charlottesville-city-schools-hosts-community-forum/.
- Schroeder, Annie. “Charlottesville City Schools Holds Forum to Discuss Racial Achievement Gap.” Home – WVIR NBC29 Charlottesville News, Sports, and Weather, 23 Oct. 2018, www.nbc29.com/story/39346637/charlottesville-city-schools-holds-forum-to-discuss-racial-achievement-gap.
Coordinator of Community Affairs and Development
firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-245-2962.