Cultural Competency Newsletter

January 4, 2020

Families of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Schools:

Among our primary focus areas in the 2018-2023 strategic plan is the objective to create a collaborative and inclusive culture in the schools and community that values diversity and recognizes the contributions and uniqueness of each learner.  Since the Fall of 2018, a priority has been to enhance our understanding and to foster a culturally competent community.

A District-Wide Cultural Competency Committee formed to craft a definition, vision, and action plan.  The committee defined cultural competency in our districts as:

We strive to be a more culturally competent community. We support our diversity of race, gender, religion, national origin, gender identity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, and ability. By our choices and actions, we promote all members to feel recognized, respected and valued. We have set our intention to be responsive, proactive, and empathetic to all facets of culture and diversity. The goal of continuously developing our cultural competency is that it will enable our students to develop the values, skills, and behaviors needed to interact effectively in a culturally diverse community, both locally and globally.

A significant component of the action plan is providing professional development.  During the 2018-2019 school year through the support of the Concord Education Fund,  three keynote speakers brought messages of cultural competency in the classroom:

  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum: Nationally renown author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations About Race
  • Principal Baruti Kafele: Highly regarded urban educator, author, and leadership expert focused on the success of at-risk students and Black males
  • Dr. Derrick Gay: International consultant on issues of diversity, cultural competency, and global citizenship

This year, all of PreK-12 will engage in professional development pathways that include offerings such as:

  • Let’s Talk About “IT”: How to Have Difficult Conversations About the ISMS. Presentation by Dr. Paula Martin, Consultant with EDCO Collaborative

Student and staff groups now exist at both Concord Middle School and Concord-Carlisle High School.  The CMS Allies teacher group and CCHS Charge (Concord-Carlisle High School Anti-Racism Group for Educators) meet regularly to discuss issues like racism and unconscious bias.  The CMS RISE (Racial Impact Social Empowerment) and CCHS Intersections Club have similar discussions about the inclusion of all students, highlighting diversity, and how social identities shape student development.

The middle school is expanding its work with the Playbook Initiative.  CCHS is looking to join the middle school in participating in the Tenacity Challenge, an academic competition for Latino and African-American students.  We learned this week that we received a METCO grant to host a performance of a theater production of “Mr. Joy,” a play about racial divides. These programs are not reflective of all of the work to be done but do establish strong structures and models.  A successful International Fair was held at Willard and is planned for other schools later this year.   Equity walks through our hallways and classrooms allow for self-assessment of our efforts at inclusion.

Our work extends into the community.  As part of the annual “Can We Talk?” series, Concord Carlisle Adult and Community Education (CCACE) presented workshops on cultural competency for our broader community. In November of 2018, “The Defamation Experience” was well attended. In this play, the audience acted as the jury in a civil lawsuit: An African American female business owner is suing a Jewish male real estate developer for defamation. The deliberations of this “case” focused on the role of race and culture play in society. This winter, CCACE partnered with the Friends of the Concord Free Library to offer a series, “Unconscious Bias: Interrupting the Cycle.” This series is comprised of five workshops: Unconscious Bias – what is in your backpack?; Class/Culture; Race, Racism, Racialized Structures, and Privilege; Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression; and Tying it Together! Having Courageous Conversations about Difficult Topics. Both of these experiences were available at a minimal fee due to generous support from our sponsors.

This spring, we will conduct an equity audit where focus groups, surveys, and a review of our policies and practices will inform our effort to date and provide data as to the vast amount of work yet to be done.

Your feedback as students and parents is critical throughout these efforts.  We encourage you to communicate about successes as well as to report incidents that should be brought to our attention or require intervention.  With you as partners, we look forward to continuing to create a community that welcomes and values everyone.