MCS addresses issues of diversity, inclusion and racism

<p>Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Director of Public Education and CEO of Muncie Community Schools (MCS) sits at her desk Jan. 22, 2020, in the MCS Administration Office and Area Career Center. She has worked at the schools for almost 10 months and has previously worked in teaching, administrative and state-level positions. <strong>Jake Helmen, DN</strong></p>

Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Director of Public Education and CEO of Muncie Community Schools (MCS) sits at her desk Jan. 22, 2020, in the MCS Administration Office and Area Career Center. She has worked at the schools for almost 10 months and has previously worked in teaching, administrative and state-level positions. Jake Helmen, DN

Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools. Read more in this series here.

In the wake of the recent death of George Floyd, Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, director of public education and CEO of Muncie Community Schools (MCS), sent out a statement Monday about Muncie Community Schools' plan to address issues of diversity, inclusion and racism in the school district.

"Racism and racist violence, by action or inaction, is intolerable and unacceptable," Kwiatkowski said in the statement. "The Black Lives Matter movement must include all of us as we support our black and brown students, teachers, staff and families. It is not a black problem, but a global problem."

Moving forward, she said the schools' actions moving forward must reflect the fact that black lives matter.

"We are committed to dismantling racism in our schools and acknowledge some practices that are unacceptable, including an inadequate representation of our black and brown educators, disproportionate discipline and euro-centered curriculum," Kwiatkowski said.

Her statement listed different steps MCS has taken and will take in the future to address diversity, equity and inclusion:

New director of diversity

Last year, she said MCS established a cultural competency committee to provide "a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, families and staff."

Based on its recommendations, she and the committee and requested the MCS Board of Trustees to appoint Rhonda Ward as the school district's director of diversity. Kwiatkowski said Ward will continue in her current role as assistant principal at Muncie Central High School.

Additionally, she said the committee created a plan for cultural diversity training, including implicit bias, which will begin this summer. Before every staff meeting, there will be time to read, reflect, listen and have honest conversation regarding issues of racial justice.

MCS-Ball State Academic Innovation Plan

Kwiatkowski said one of the foundational principles in the strategic plan of the joint MCS and Ball State academic innovation plan includes culturally relevant teaching and learning,

She said this will be embedded in curriculum, professional development, social emotional learning and family and community involvement, among other steps taken by MCS.

Implicit bias training

MCS school resource officers, bus drivers and front office staff will be required to take implicit bias training starting this summer, she said. 

"This kind of proactive approach with our frontline workers responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone inside our schools is just one more way we can provide the best educational environment for every student," she said.

Student behavior

She said the schools will "continue to work to eliminate racist and punitive policies and practices" and plan to "incorporate restorative practices."

The groundwork for this, she said, has begun through the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports initiative and with the revamping of the 2020-21 Student Discipline Handbook.

Additionally, she said the schools are strengthening their Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) teams to proactively address student behavior so issues do not reach the level requiring suspensions.

Additional steps

Kwiatkowski said MCS will review its curriculum to ensure there is relevant material and classrooms have a variety of texts that include positive, diverse representations. She added it is committed to improving communication with our communities of color through multiple channels.

MCS, she said, will dismantle biased practices put into place in order to provide black students equitable access to different programs for gifted and talented students, Advanced Placement courses and dual credit opportunities.

She added, the schools will ensure minorities will be included, considered, and/or represented when it comes to identifying a panel of judges within the schools.

"It is what MCS does in the days, weeks and years ahead that will ultimately make a difference in the dismantling of anti-black racism that occurs within MCS and beyond," Kwiatkowski said. "We are committed to a sustained effort to create change where there will truly be equity and justice for all."

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