Talking race with children

Shen Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson makes a point at a workshop on how to talk about race with children earlier this year.

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — With the start of another school year just days away Shenendehowa Schools Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson recently gave the Board of Education a look at the district’s updated goals.    

In an Aug. 13 presentation Robinson took the Board through four major goals that he and his administration believe will best advance the district’s mission in the coming year.

Those goals, or goal areas, are School and Classroom Experiences, Organizational Culture and Environment, Personnel and Professionalism, and Fiscal Responsibility. The majority of the presentation centered on the first two.

“The theme for the 2019-2020 goals for Shen is Responsive, Relevant, Responsible; the same theme we bring to the budget we bring to next year’s goals’ process in order to make sure what we’re saying that we’re doing in the budget is the same as what we’re doing in our goals,” Robinson said.

As school wound down and the summer began in earnest, Robinson said he and district administrators spent time looking at language related to the district’s goals.

“We spend time every year reviewing what we’ve achieved, what we have in process, and what are the newest central objectives we need to either revamp, add, or change to keep that trend going to realize our goals,” he said.

District staff will take direction from the four major stated goals. The objectives sought from each will be achieved through program level outcomes and individual leadership actions. Those outcomes and actions are what directly impacts classroom activity. 

Robinson sees the goal of School and Classroom Experiences as being based on them being dynamic and personally relevant. The objectives of this goal include the profile of a Shen student and an engaged classroom, student experience, and seeing the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards are implemented in such a way that they meet the needs of diverse learners.

“We want to make sure the profile of a Shen Student is vibrant in what we do because these profiles are powerful documents,” he said. “We don’t want them to just be posters on a wall. We want them to be actively part of the decision making of students and staff. Profiles of a Shen student and an engaged classroom serve as guideposts for all the actions within a classroom.”

The objective of student experience, including access to supports, he said, should be examined through the “lens of equity for all”. At risk students, no matter what the reason, should have regular supports to help them succeed.

“When you start looking at things from an equity lens it’s not what you see but rather what you don’t see,” he said. “Who’s not there and why aren’t they there.”

He cited an example of attending a middle school honor society induction ceremony and noticing there were no boys in the group of inductees.

“The program mentors should certainly be happy, very happy, but they should also be asking, where are the boys,” he said.

When he moved on to the goal of Organizational Culture and Environment Robinson noted that the district’s administrators had spent a lot of time making sure the district culture is one that is embracing.

The three objectives listed under the goal included seeing that expectations, norms, and actions were defined in such a way to promote a diverse and inclusive environment where every student feels connected; that a network of comprehensive and cohesive wellness and mental health supports be provided; and the comprehensive safety plan for emergency response be continually updated with best practices.

“We want all kids who come here to feel connected,” Robinson said referring to the goal’s first objective. “And with the safety plan, it means we want it to be part of the culture here; that safety is everybody’s responsibility; that no one is saying, oh we have a plan for that or we have people for that.”

In discussing the goal of Personnel and Professionalism, Robinson focused on the goal’s objective of recruitment and hiring.

“We must look at recruitment through an open lens,” he said. “People are coming into the profession (of teaching) from all over, with different perspectives, from private industry and we must continue to push forward. The number one profile for a Shen employee must always be that you love kids.”

In briefly touching on the last goal of Fiscal Responsibility Robinson reiterated what he has said many times during district budget discussions, the district must maximize the resources it’s given. They must be allocated equitably, leveraged to provide a high quality experience for students, and see that operational supports and services are provided to meet the evolving needs of students and staff.

When Robinson finished the presentation and opened it up to comments Board President Robert Pressly noted the number of goals had been reduced from the five presented last year.

“It’s very healthy that we don’t have a separate section for technology as we did last year,” he said. “We had to do that a couple years ago because we had to integrate it; be it Chrome books, internet access, or your own device. But the lack of a separate section here shows these goals are dynamic, you don’t have to keep rehashing what we were doing three or four years ago.

"If it’s been accepted run with it, if it hasn’t take it out.”

comments powered by Disqus