Friday, November 27, 2020

Quincy School Board works for equity among students

Staff Writer | November 20, 2020 12:00 AM

QUINCY — In a small town in the heart of the Columbia Basin, a school district is making strides to provide equity among students.

The Quincy School Board was one of 25 statewide recognized in late October as a Board of Distinction for 2020 by the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA).

It was the fifth year in a row the board was honored for its work, according to Chris Baumgartner, board president.

To get there, districts had to demonstrate how they were ensuring the closure of opportunity gaps to 10 judges who spent 6-8 hours apiece reviewing applications and collaborating with WSSDA staff, among other things.

“The judges were very impressed,” wrote WSSDA Director of Leadership Development Tricia Lubach in a release. “Not only by the emphasis each of the boards placed on ensuring equity and access for their students, but also that they did so in unique ways that were tailored to their specific communities.”

Lubach also serves on the Quincy School Board as a director.

For Quincy, it has been part of the plan for a few years.

“One of the things in our strategic plan for the school district was to give all of our students an opportunity to succeed,” Baumgartner said. “Equity is important ... Often people don’t equate equity to equality.”

Equity, he explained, was being fair, while equality represented people as equals. And since about 87% of the students were Latinx, board members had to work to make things fair for them, he said.

“We need to identify where we are falling short, not where they are falling short,” he said.

Although he couldn’t get too specific, Baumgartner offered some insight on how the district has accommodated students to fill educational gaps.

He said district schools were modernized and furniture changed, and curriculum was adjusted to better fit Latinx students and others. Teachers have delved into how to better educate those students and placed greater emphasis on English as a second language courses and early childhood education. The latter helped ensure kids were more prepared to enter school.

Providing free meals also was part of the plan, he said, as experts have said health has become increasingly important for kids to succeed.

Additionally, schools were reconfigured to allow students to stay in one facility a bit longer. For instance, the district used to have kindergarten through second grade in one school, then kids would go to a couple of other schools for higher grade levels before finally landing in high school.

Within the past several years, that has changed to allow students to remain at one school before heading off to middle school and high school.

“We felt they should be in neighborhood schools,” he said.

Ensuring diversity existed in every building also was part of reconfiguration, he added.

“Our purpose was not to highlight specific schools,” he said.

But all of the success wouldn’t have occurred without leadership, he said, such as that provided by Superintendent John Boyd, Assistant Superintendent Nik Bergman and others.

The district may be up for another award, Board of the Year, as it was in 2017, at WSSDA’s annual conference.

“But we don’t do this to get recognition,” he said.