The Winooski Antiracism Steering Committee (ARSC) came together during one of the last weeks of the school year to share and celebrate the many accomplishments of the Action Teams tasked with taking action on the six demands from the Winooski Students for Antiracism. For the past two years, UP for Learning has facilitated this work, providing meeting structure and resources, as well as supporting the teams’ development of youth partners and leaders. With the support of the ARSC, the Action Teams have researched relevant issues, overcome obstacles (including several COVID-19 related postponements!), and made concrete strides towards creating a more equitable school district. The following is a summary of each Action Team’s work from the year.
Demand Action Team One: Racial Truth and Reconciliation This year, the group researched the work of past and current truth and reconciliation commissions, and invited the community to a showing of Confronting the Truth, a film highlighting the powerful work of commissions in South Africa, Morocco, East Timor and Peru. They have also been in regular contact with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), who plan on visiting Winooski this fall to help facilitate listening circles for members of the WSD community, as well as to mentor the Action Team in their restorative justice work.
Demand Action Team Two: Recruit and Retain Faculty and Staff of Color This group was granted funding by the Barr Foundation to hire the outside consultants TNTP, who worked with the group to create a survey and conduct one-on-one interviews to better understand the district’s climate and practices. The surveys had a high response rate, with 63% of staff, 70% of students, and 179 families completing it! A report based on the survey and interviews will be completed in July. The group is also working to expedite processes and eliminate financial barriers so that community members can get the licensing they need in order to work at the school. For instance, after several meetings about the lack of bus drivers in the district, the group helped develop a pilot program for community members to get their bus licenses, and these classes are happening at Milton High School.
Demand Action Team Three: Develop an Ethnic Studies Curriculum In the past month, UVM School of Education professor Dr. Cynthia Reyes came to speak to the group about the history of ethnic studies in Vermont and in the U.S. During their work this year, one of the chief concerns that the group discussed was students not learning their heritage languages in school; heritage language classes on Saturday afternoons have attracted some participants, but the group would like them to be integrated into the school curriculum. The group is also investigating funding sources for hiring an Ethnic Studies Coordinator for the district.
Demand Action Team Four: Equity Audit of Curriculum and Policies This group is working on evaluating Winooski School District’s curriculum and policies using an equity lens. The agency Opportunities Consulting performed this audit for both WSD and the City of Winooski producing a lengthy and thorough report with the input of many community members. The team’s next step is to examine the results, and then to consider whether and how to enact the consultants’ recommendations.
Demand Action Team Five: Civil Rights Workshops for Students and Families The team has met with lawyers from the Department of Justice to learn about potential speakers, but recognized that most presentations are geared towards adults and need to be more accessible to youth. Currently the group is setting up meetings with representatives from the Office for Civil Rights in Boston as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with the goal to find an appropriate speaker for in-person events in the fall and spring of the upcoming school year. They want to ensure that these workshops are regular and on-going, and that they become part of the culture at Winooski.
Demand Action Team Six: Multilingual Learner Mentoring Program This group has partnered with Mentor Vermont, which offers free training and assistance for organizations that are looking to start a mentorship program. They have also created a Winooski-specific handbook for the program that includes anti-bias training for mentors. The next step is to hire a mentorship coordinator in consultation with the newly hired Multilingual Program Director, Mohamed Diop.
Over the summer, each team will develop a budget for its anticipated needs for the 2022-2023 academic year, as well as recruit more community members to join and add their voices. We are so excited by the incredible work that these six inclusive and dynamic groups have accomplished, and look forward to seeing their continued successes next year!