The East Lansing Public School Board met on Oct. 9 for their first school board meeting of the month. Board members listened to the progress and plan for the professional development days on five Fridays during the 2023-24 school year – and addressed critics about the efficacy of these initiatives in promoting more equity in the school district.
Assistant Superintendent Glenn Mitcham of East Lansing Public Schools gave a presentation on the professional development days and the goals and plans that the district has set forth for the development days for the 2023-24 school year. The mission statement and goals that have been set forth for the ELPS for the 2023-24 school year include sessions for teachers at the elementary and secondary schools about nurturing each child, educating all students, and building world citizens.
The sessions include forty-nine 2.5-hour sessions that teachers can choose from throughout the five professional development days this year. During the professional development days, the elementary school teachers will be primarily focused on building the SEL and PBIS alignment, while the secondary school teachers are focused on building work groups.
While some people believe that the professional development days are good for the teachers to participate in and will help students to excel in the classroom, others believe that they won’t help with the equity problems that have plagued the school district recently.
Brandi Branson, a member of the East Lansing Parent Advocacy team and an East Lansing resident with three children attending school in the district believes that the professional development days are not being looked at through an equity lens. She is frustrated that only one African-American teacher is involved in the group on the professional learning plan and was also offended by how they kept mentioning her name during the presentation.
“Every time I heard that come out of their mouths, I felt like you were saying we have our one black person that can speak for all minorities and that is not looking at something from an equity lens,” said Branson.
Brad Lutz is also frustrated with the equity problems in the school district. As a parent in the district of both white and brown children, Lutz says he can see the vast differences in how both sets of kids are treated in the district and believes that the district is not doing a good job taking care of all of its students. He believes that the district needs to invest and do an equity audit to care for all students.
“We’re not going to get a good equity policy and I applaud all the work going on in the education sessions but there’s things we need to target so that we’re not back here again putting out fires. We need to take care of the root cause of what’s going on in our district and we are diverse but we are not equitable,” said Lutz.
Nick Hamilton is the Director of Support Services for East Lansing Public Schools and is working with Superintendent Mitcham on the professional learning plan for the 2023-24 school year. Hamilton says that the social justice team needs to work together with the SEL group, teaching and learning group, and DEI Group this year because, at the elementary level, the groups were separated last year involving the equity work.
“Everybody from our social justice team in that building needs to be integrated in building our PBIS system with them. There are intentional steps like that that are being taken, to make sure there’s checks and balances because if we were to carry on what we felt with what we were doing before, that’s what’s missing,” said Hamilton.
High School students who attend school in the district will also get the opportunity to lead sessions twice this year and will have the opportunity to participate and share their experiences in the school and what the district can do better for them. Board member Terah Chambers is very supportive of the student-led sessions.
“I’m really glad to see that our students are going to be offered the opportunity to participate in these sessions in the future,” said Chambers.