Staff Takes Advantage of Summer to Roll Out New Inclusion Programing

Amanda Young and Jessica Rosiak

In light of protests against racism at the local, state, national, and global levels, as well as videos of students using racial slurs that surfaced in early June, Campolindo has formulated a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Action Plan. Led by both staff and students, who created committees for Athletics, Curriculum, Campus Culture, Board Policies, Restorative Justice, and Policies/Systems/Administration, the group met weekly in the quad over the summer beginning June 11.

1 of the 1st things that the committees did was create a new mission statement for Campolindo, which reads: “Campolindo strives to inspire and empower every student by fostering belonging, well-being, and accountability in an equitable learning environment.”

According to Principal John Walker, the change was, in part, spurred by data from student surveys regarding their sense of belonging at school. “I think the data on belonging has been the most compelling,” he said. “We need to make sure that all the students feel like they belong here at their school and are respected and feel that they have a voice. Now that’s complicated to create a sense of belonging, but it is such a critical step, and I think when we foster a sense of belonging some other things will start to fall into place.

The meetings, organized by social studies teacher Tom Renno, have included discussions on how the campus culture can be positively changed beginning during the 2020-21 school year.

“We worked to create a community that is going to be able to make additional progress in making Campolindo a better place and creating more belonging and working to be more equitable,” said Renno.

While the 1st meeting was solely teachers and staff, the floor was later opened up to the rest of the community in order to bring in different perspectives. Math teacher Petro Petreas said that the audience is “growing” and “picking up” adding that “there’s never been a summer where this many teachers have come here weekly to talk.”

“I am very encouraged about the work that has been done at these weekly meetings by the students, the parents, and of course the faculty and counselors who have been attending. Folks have dedicated some of their summer break time to this work which reflects how important they see equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Walker. “There is a strong commitment by a large group of people that believe Campolindo’s culture needs to shift for the better when we come back to school.”

“The first meeting was very ad hoc, where people came together on campus and heard the pain of our staff members of color. From that, [English teacher Jamie] Donohoe came up with this idea of a paradigm shift, which I love. I think that’s really what has to happen,” said history teacher Lisa Herzig. “Paradigm shifts don’t happen because of a top-down approach, so I think that administration has been trying to wade in, but I don’t think in a meaningful way. I think that it would maybe be better if [change comes] the community as a whole, inclusive of teachers – even though we might be part of the top-down.”

“I think it has to be massive change. I’m not satisfied,” said Herzig. “We’re going to do more, whether we like it or not.”

According to Walker, the administration is supporting teacher efforts by “organizing the key initiatives into a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan for Campolindo. The plan reflects the key themes and ideas that have come out of these meetings and that plan has a draft of a plan that has already been shared with the superintendent.”

Walker was impressed by the community’s commitment. “I thought the turnout would fade a little bit in July, and that has not been the case. There’ve been new faces, and it’s impressive, and there’s been a lot of good communication during the week outside of these meetings to make sure that we capture the work that’s being done.” One reason for the increased participation in July was publicization of the meetings, as the Leadership class advertised them on Instagram.

“I think the efforts striving for equity and inclusion [were] much needed for a long time, and I am personally, so grateful that it is taking place right now. Based on discussions I’ve participated in, and from the meetings I’ve attended, it seems that Campolindo staff and students are both really putting in the time and effort to improve Campolindos school culture. I would like to think that the work will pay off and that this high school will become a more inclusive place,” said senior Connie Kim. “As an educational institution, Campolindo has always had, and will have, a duty to teach fairly and justly to their students. Creating, encouraging, or allowing an atmosphere of exclusion and prejudice is something that should never be tolerated.”

As the district adopted distance learning for the start of the school year, some Academy sessions will be dedicated to discussing race and equity using lesson plans from Dr. Lori Watson, who has spoken at previous district Diversity Summits.

CURRICULUM:

The Curriculum Committee worked to find ways to integrate anti-racist lessons into every subject. In the English department, this year’s freshman class will not read Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird because of the books’ use of the n-word, and teachers will work to select texts from a more diverse set of authors. The history department is working to give the current World History curriculum a less Eurocentric approach and put a greater focus on equality, justice, and the Civil Rights Movement in US History classes; overall, social studies teachers will try to include various perspectives and voices in their classes.

In addition to implementing lessons on topics like environmental racism and the biology of skin color, the science department aims to focus on the “belonging” aspect of the mission statement through collaborative work. The math department is finding ways to humanize math topics and make them relate to current issues, such as through the analysis of statistics relating to biases and racism.

ATHLETICS:

The Athletics Committee, comprised of student-athletes, coaches, and parents alike, plans to implement a new Code of Conduct for athletes and coaches and is working on an Equity in Athletics symposium, where students and speakers could discuss race and experiences. Planned by seniors Katie Strohmeyer and ASB President Sophie Webster, both 4-year varsity cross country runners, the symposium plans to bring together coaches and athletes from all sports to discuss the culture of Campolindo athletics as well as equity. Webster adds that they plan to have 2 gatherings, with 1 to be more administration focused and the other where “athlete speakers share their experiences to the Campolindo community.” Webster and Strohmeyer have said that their focus is to put together a platform for students to have their voices heard.

In addition, the committee discussed equity training for coaches and team captains, a culture shift to promote good character, and an end to overlooking “locker room talk” that may be offensive.

CAMPUS CULTURE:

The Campus Culture Committee discussed increasing belonging and acceptance on campus. Teachers hope to foster a greater sense of empathy and inclusion, rather than competition, in the classroom. This year’s Virtual Cohort Academy, which mimics a traditional homeroom, will help create small communities within Campolindo. 15 to 20 students are assigned a teacher that they have. For the 1st week of school, students will only meet with their Virtual Cohort Academy teacher to learn the new online platform, Canvas, as well as study material regarding racial justice provided by Dr. Lori Watson. Though the sole class for the 1st week, the Virtual Cohort Academies will be continuing throughout the year on Mondays as a mandatory class.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE:

The Restorative Justice Committee focused on implementing a “restorative justice” model of discipline at Campolindo. Restorative justice focuses on redemption and reflection in a peer-to-peer setting that allows students to resolve conflicts. Other schools, including Berkeley High School, Encinal Junior & Senior High School, and schools in the Oakland Unified School District, have restorative justice systems that members of the committee hope to learn from.

“Restorative justice’s goal is essentially to approach issues and their resolution in a more healing-oriented and less punitive [way],” said Kim, a member of the committee. “It’s important that it not only involves direct students associated with the conflict at hand but to also have the community and teachers involved too.”

“Until now Campolindo’s system for punishment has been the typical disciplinary measures, such as detention, suspension, etc. With restorative justice, it will definitely affect Campolindo’s policies about discipline directly. New training would be required for teachers, and the measures taken to deal with a situation would be drastically different than a simple ‘slap to the wrist’ kind of method,” Kim said. “It would hold the student truly accountable for their actions and choices which in my personal opinion, is something that Campolindo needs to work on. Restorative justice also encourages the idea for the community to partake in discussions, therefore providing a learning experience for others from the action of an individual.”

The 2020-21 school year will primarily focus on training restorative justice leaders and laying out the foundation for the program.

POLICIES, SYSTEMS, AND ADMINISTRATION:

The Policies, Systems, and Administration Committee discussed hiring more teachers and administrators of color as well as a trained Diversity and Equity Counselor, modifying the mission statement to emphasize inclusion and belonging, implementing a pledge for students to sign at the beginning of the school year, and creating systems to define, recognize, and track hate speech and micro/macroaggressions. The pledge would be based on the Birmingham Pledge, a statement of commitment to racial justice created by the Birmingham Pledge Foundation.