School district discusses diversity, inclusion and equity

Dynamic Social Justice is a new group in the school realm.

Last month, Mercer Island Parent Edge presented an engaging two-part virtual discussion with Rosetta Lee, an expert in diversity, inclusion and equity.

She focused on the topics of “What I Said and What I Meant: Improving Cross Cultural Communication” and “Navigating Microaggressions” that were geared toward parents, adults and middle-school and high-school students.

At a recent joint meeting with the Mercer Island School District and the Mercer Island City Council, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services Fred Rundle rolled out a host of important elements on the teaching and learning side this school year.

Some motivated educators formed the Dynamic Social Justice group over the summer to focus on anti-racism and anti-bias awareness and training and more. According to the group’s section on the Mercer Island Schools Foundation’s page, the group will organize events and support student-led initiatives through the Anti-Defamation League, such as No Place for Hate.

“Conversations across our school district about race, racism, whiteness, and privilege are essential if we are truly committed to our values, vision, and mission,” Rundle told the Reporter about inclusive and equitable learning settings and opportunities. “We need to all work toward recognizing the barriers we create, predict ones that we might unintentionally erect, and work toward breaking them down. All students deserve access to rigorous learning environments that embrace them for who they are as people.”

Rundle added that organizations like Mercer Island Parent Edge are key in partnering with the school district to educate parents.

“Eliminating systemic racism, breaking down barriers, creating inclusive environments, and ensuring all students thrive in our community is a responsibility we all share,” he said.

On the middle-school front, some eighth-grade teachers are working on a series of units designed around Black Lives Matter. Rundle said they plan to focus on some moments in America’s past and study them from a project-based learning point of view.

Educurious has also come into play as the local instructors are working on a project with four other school districts in the region to rewrite curriculum around Washington state history in a global and holistic context, Rundle said.

The Educurious site notes, “Our project-based curriculum energizes students with ideas that matter. We connect students to the world through a global network of subject matter experts and mentors, who relate the curriculum to challenges in today’s workplace. We support teachers with customizable tools and resources, immersive professional development opportunities, and a vibrant learning community.”

One MI was part of a recent school district virtual gathering. The organizing network for equity — with backing from the city council — called on Mercer Island residents to celebrate Juneteenth 2020 (June 19) by holding individual social-distanced front yard/park cookouts and picnics. They also sponsored a Say Their Names memorial at Mercerdale Park for families to discuss the protests that happened over the summer.

“We’re just here to make sure that every child, every family in our community feels seen and embraced for who they are,” said One MI’s Robin Li at the meeting.

One MI’s mission, according to its Facebook page, is to: enhance positive identity for children of color, advance cultural competency in the Mercer Island community and drive community-level policy change for equity.

Over at the Mercer Island Community Fund (MICF), President Erin Krawiec said its all-volunteer board of directors has committed to helping drive the Island’s efforts to make it a more inclusive community.

“MICF will direct a portion of its 2021 grant funds to programs, events and organizations that address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in Mercer Island. MICF also hopes to develop its board into a leadership space that is reflective of the diversity in our community. Finally, MICF has committed to collaborate with other community members and organizations to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Mercer Island,” she said.