The Rome Education Council was introduced at a recent regular meeting to the new COO of Access Global Group, the firm in its fourth year of consultation with the district on issues of diversity, equity and fairness. inclusion.
Hilda M. Jordan – who moved with her family to Utica at the age of 7 and attended Utica schools from the third grade, the Proctor High School Class of 2015 Salutatorian, a three sports varsity athlete and student representative on the Utica Board of Education and Harvard University magna cum laude Cum graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and African American Studies – came home to use her skills to support and inspire students in her native New York City center.
She was the highlight of the evening. She lit up the room.
Access Global Group and its Founder, President and CEO Dr Shanelle R. Bensen Reid are entering their fourth year as Consultants to the City of Rome School District on issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion, which led to the formation of the District Equity Task. Force in 2019, to bring more points of view and voices “to the table” to maintain a dialogue and meet the needs of the District of Rome so that all students feel equally supported in accessing their RCSD education. Jordan will be a member of the Equity Task Force this school year 2021-22, joining the 7 to 12 members, representing the district administration, faculty, staff and community members of Rome, to collaborate on initiatives that help give every student in Rome an equal chance to succeed in their studies.
At the meeting, Benson Reid, Jordan and their plans for the Equity Task Force this school year were scheduled as the working and study session of the meeting. The two leaders of Global Access gave a presentation to Blake and the members of the board of directors which started with Benson Reid explaining to them the vision for 2021-2022.
The title of the presentation reflected Benson Reid’s understanding as she works with cohorts in a school community to build bridges where walls once stood – “We are the sum total of our experience.”
Benson Reid began by introducing Jordan as a “new member of the team”.
“She graduated from Harvard University – a local girl from Utica – graduated from Proctor,” said Benson Reid of Jordan. “She knows the community very well and what is going on in the Utica-Rome region, so she is a great asset to the team.”
Benson Reid then walked the Board through a detailed presentation on plans for this school year. She insisted on meeting the students where they are and helping faculty and staff better understand how to do this with various cohorts of students in order to enhance the educational experience for all young people in Rome. She is not blind to the resistance of many to her message – inherent in which is the premise that Rome is not already doing it – or at least trying. But the feedback and data show there is a gap. And AGG and the Equity Task Force seek to work with all cohorts in the school community to recognize efforts and support this work so that it is more successful in addressing these gaps.
“Expect to feel some discomfort. Let’s fight together, ”said Benson Reid. “Be open and try to learn something. Hit your “growth advantage”.
Goals for the school year include a focus on the well-being of the ‘whole’ student, creating equitable and student-centered learning environments, and accommodating disparate outcomes of students. students.
The AGG and the Rome Equity Task Force identify diversity across a broad spectrum, including social identity, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, language, economic status, body size and disabilities.
Jordan supported the approach to add enthusiasm to the idea of introducing the CARDS model to identify and develop student leaders by recognizing the leaders and the roles played by those who influence them: Advisor – Advocate – Model – Disciplinary – Parent of substitution
“When we think about educating students from diverse backgrounds and situations, we realize this is a complex process,” Jordan said. “Students need to know that the adults in their lives are aware of cultural differences and are able to give them the support they need to feel equal and included. “
When Benson Reid and Jordan next opened their session for questions from the board, the expectation of an “embarrassment” that Benson Reid had warned about early on was immediately felt when a member’s first question simmered with the subtext of upholding the teachings of the district with respect to the observation portion of the proposal for the coming year.
“Have all of you ever been in a classroom as a teacher,” asked freshman Anna Megerell, who already works as an educator and said she was in the process of graduating and graduating. title of teacher, “or just the observation of teachers?” “
Benson Reid’s response was to list two decades of classroom teaching experience, certification as a special education teacher in the states of California and New York, and senior level work that includes supervision on the field with teachers working to earn degrees and those seeking advanced degrees in school administration. , higher education, PK-12 or adult education.
“So if someone were to come and watch you for an hour for a day, go away and make assumptions and judgments about how you were doing your thing,” Megerell insisted, “how receptive would you be? “
Benson Reid answered the question as asked – from a teacher’s perspective.
“I had the opportunity to be observed, to be a master teacher, to work at different levels – whether to criticize or to learn,” said Benson Reid. “My true belief is that whatever happens should be for the betterment of the student. As a teacher – if I have people watching – doing my practices with a fine tooth comb, I always remember that it is for the betterment of the student.
Blake stepped in to say, “Our process is more through principals – they have the best relationship with our teachers. – We had a very productive roundtable with Dr Benson Reid and principals – to have this dialogue and hear their concerns and empower these principals to follow up effectively with their teachers. This is all part of the leadership development that we have undertaken over the past year.
Benson Reid concluded, “My goal is to build bridges in this community, not walls.”
The spotlight and subject were then changed somewhat abruptly for Jordan, who was asked about her experience at Proctor.
“I have had great success as a student and student leader. I got involved and benefited from community organizations that helped me advance in the classroom and stand up for my peers, ”Jordan said. “I was ‘that kid’ in middle school who was president of the student council and continued on that path.”
Jordan then poignantly changed to share that part of his journey that manifested in the inequalities that present barriers that so many who have never shared this experience have no context on.
“I had a competitive GPA, I was a varsity athlete in three sports, I was a member of the National Honor Society, and I led the school’s mock trial team at its first major competition of the year. club history – and I raised the money myself to attend. a Harvard high school program, “Jordan said.” And my guidance counselor tells me I should consider going to a college first. community college after graduation – that a ‘four year college’ can be too difficult. Maybe – she said – I shouldn’t aim so high? “
After a break, the Salutatorian of Proctor’s Class of 2015 and Harvard University graduate Cum Laude added, “It was disheartening.” Then, after another pause, she concluded: “Heartbreaking.”
Jordan shared that those low expectations she encountered “shaped a lot” into how she navigated her high school space.
“I remember going to high school and telling myself that no one would take my accomplishments away from me and throw them back into affirmative action,” Jordan shared, “when I had to work a lot harder to be” in the play. “and earn the respect I deserved for my work by earning them.
While the room was enthralled at the time, board vice president Tanya Davis, after quickly recognizing that Jordan’s story was consistent with “others she’s heard … that voice negative in response, “she urged Jordan to say if hers was also consistent in the presence of positive influences?
Jordan responded to honor her 3rd and 4th grade teachers in the Utica School District, fondly remembering their encouragement and support and that she had returned often to visit them, share her triumphs and continue to seek this encouragement to overcome the obstacles she faced. . She explained that they gave her a safe place to go, a place to cry, a place to be encouraged and, when she needed it, a place to be held accountable.
“They taught me to be responsible and to imagine so much more for myself,” Jordan said. “I really developed this village community with them.”
“How can we help our school staff become THAT person,” Davis asked. “We are looking for tangible ways to do it. “
“By ‘setting the table’… getting educators to open up to this,” Jordan replied. “We are an external force – brought in to make things better. It can be intimidating, even alienating, but we are here to have honest dialogue so that our educators CAN be that force for our students.
Jordan emphasized that this is the goal of the CARD paradigm.
“Your educators are your role models – especially as a child,” Jordan said. “I spent more time with my teachers than with my mother. This is true for so many children in the districts of Rome and Utica.
Jordan concluded, “Students are ‘uplifted’ by the quality of education we receive. “
She then asked a question about how much time she imagined spending on this job in the Rome neighborhood.
“I have already devoted a lot of time,” replied Jordan, who went on to say that Rome would receive at least 40 hours per week of his time individually, adds Dr Benson’s time. “I like to make fun of my designer bags – I mean the bags in front of my eyes! “
Jordan noted that they would be tracking their time in terms of the progress they are able to make for Rome – … because it’s really passionate work to make that progress that we all want to see. “