Months after feedback from students, staff, parents and community members, Elizabethtown Independent Schools has developed an equity plan aimed at improving academic performance of black and other minority students.
Superintendent Jon Ballard gave an overview Monday of the plan before it was approved during the Elizabethtown Board of Education meeting.
The district has made it a priority to help the black student population after Helmwood Heights Elementary, Morningside Elementary, T.K. Stone Middle and Elizabethtown High schools were labeled as Targeted Support and Improvement schools — a designation from the Kentucky Department of Education that identifies schools who have low academic performing minority, special needs, economically disadvantaged or English learning students. EIS specifically struggled with black and special needs students.
Ballard said the plan has four main focuses: relationships, academic supports, training/awareness and positive role models.
RELATIONSHIPS. One way the school district will build relationships with the community, Ballard said, is by hosting more community events. He used the July 8 cookout at Haycraft Neighborhood Park as an example. The school district also will visit the homes of students, reach out to parents and create more clubs and activities.
ACADEMIC SUPPORTS. The school district will continue to bring “academic supports” in and out of school and will provide field trips that provide more “cultural awareness.” During a focus group meeting, students indicated they wanted more in-depth education when it came to African-American studies, Ballard said.
“It’s always about Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman and they needed more,” he said, adding all students would be able to benefit from more culturally aware curriculum.
TRAINING/AWARENESS. Ballard said the district staff will undergo cultural sensitivity and implicit bias training. The district also will aim to address the disproportionate minority discipline issues in the district and increase the identification of minority students who qualify as gifted and talented.
ROLE MODELS. The district will focus on hiring and retaining more minority staff and using community members as a way to mentor students, Ballard said. The school district also will use older students as mentors.
“We need to intentionally expose our students to positive roles through mentoring and diverse curriculum,” Ballard said.
As for its next steps, Ballard said the district will create a steering committee to update the plan and to hold the school district accountable for its implementation.
“It’s one thing to say that we’re going to do all these things, but it’s another to actually do them,” he said.
Board members commended Ballard for his work on the plan and focus group members who gave their input, some of whom attended Monday’s board meeting.
“We need to continuously update the plans,” board member Matt Wyatt said. “I think it’s a great first step.”