Equity Conversation at June 2 School Board Meeting


CATHY NATHAN - ROCHESTER SCHOOL BOARD·MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2020·

The Post Bulletin reported on the conversation we had at the June 2 School Board meeting on the budget, where we discussed adding a cabinet-level position focused on equity and how to increase our investment in RPS equity work. https://www.postbulletin.com/news/education/6519454-School-Board-considers-adding-cabinet-position-to-address-inequity (PDF:https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bUBm9ZACSvzfmUhwnELiX7ZlYomZ05UN/view?usp=sharing)


You can watch the June 2 Budget presentation and the discussion on equity expenditures here: https://youtu.be/3mUxQrAfd7Q?t=1302


I sent an email to the Superintendent, Board Chair and Vice Chair on Monday, June 1 suggesting that we have this conversation. My comments and questions at the meeting on June 2 reflect my statements in this email (text below). While we did not reach a clear consensus on whether increased expenditures should be directed to a cabinet-level position or to other support for equity work, my commitment to “elevate, emphasize and energize our current and future equity work” continues. I have asked the Superintendent to provide additional detail on all the resources we are committing to the District equity work before we approve the 2020-21 budget on June 16 (we are required by statute to approve a budget before July 1 of every year.)


Text of my email from June 1: “On Friday, the Superintendent released a statement on George Floyd’s death: “We are committed to bringing together safe, supportive anti-racist spaces for our staff and our students…We are committed to the well-being of all of our students and staff. For positive changes to occur, we must all be advocates for racial justice.”

The voices I have heard over the past week make it clear that we as a District have much work to do to prove to our community – especially community members of color – that they can trust our commitment to those words shared on Friday.

Those of us in decision-making roles in Rochester Public Schools need to act now – together – to elevate, emphasize and energize our current and future equity work. While I recognize we are in the home stretch for the 2020-21 budget review and approval cycle, I strongly believe we need to take action in this budget to create a new, cabinet-level, Executive Director position, focused solely on our equity work. This position would have the responsibility to:

  • organize all our equity work and lead the collaborative development of work plans designed for timely progress

  • ensure that our equity work is embedded in all the District’s academic, social/emotional, and professional development programs

  • supervise district staff whose work is directly related to equity

  • monitor and evaluate our equity work to ensure we are achieving the outcomes we desire for our students and dismantling the inequities that impact achievement

  • articulate our equity work consistently and frequently to our community, internally and externally

  • build relationships with students, staff, and community members of color to create trust and facilitate impactful feedback

This Executive Director position must be filled by a person of color.


Nothing in this proposal is intended to discount the equity work that is in process or has been proposed. We have a number of impressive and qualified District leaders, administrators, teachers, and staff who are committed to carrying out our equity work. However, we must admit that the overall progress on our equity work has been too slow, communication of same has been too infrequent, and engagement with our community has been limited. When we contrast the progress of our work with the speed and intensity of current events and public response, it is imperative that our equity work move ahead at 110% effort.

We must also admit that there are too many other equally important responsibilities in the day-to-day operations of a district – and outside factors out of our control - that impact the timing and prioritizing of equity implementation work. There are too many moving parts of our equity work to expect them to move on their own without a consistent hand on the throttle and a spotlight to shine that dauntlessly reminds us all that our students can't wait any longer to see progress. I have not been able to get these words from Congressman John Lewis out of my head: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” I look forward to hearing from you all as to how we can move this conversation forward as part of this year’s budget discussions. Thank you for your consideration.”

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