One of our editors sat down for a face-to-face conversation with Dr. Katie Hawes. Here is what they discussed.
1) How will the equity audit help the school?
Educational leaders, practitioners, and consultants have used equity audits for decades in various settings including health care, business, and education. What we are proposing is a school and community-based diversity, equity, and inclusion assessment which will help the district and community better understand the root causes [of inequities] and take actions to remediate the inequities that exist within our schools.
2) Given the controversy of using Twitter and other social media as a positive platform for communication, how do you think it played a role in this controversy?
During my time as Superintendent, the School Board Communications Committee has directed us to begin to use social media, specifically Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. People have expressed appreciation for these expanded communication efforts, and we have successfully raised awareness about the many positive things that are happening in our schools. Over the past few weeks, social media has provided a platform for us to share our work around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and we plan to continue to use these outlets for positive communication.
3) Do you feel as though the policies should be updated with relation to hate based offenses? If so, how?
Yes. We are taking a very close look at our policies and procedures as they relate to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Most of our policies and handbooks are founded by exemplars from Maine School Management and Drummond Woodsum Law Firm. However, policies need to be updated in changing times and based upon local circumstances. Our School Board Policy Committee meets monthly to review and recommend adjustments to policies to the full School Board. You may notice that each School Board business meeting includes policies which are under review.
4) Could you describe the investigations that the school board is overseeing?
At my urging, I advised the School Board to conduct an independent investigation. At this time, the School Board is coordinating with an independent investigator to outline the process and scope.
Editor’s note: final request for proposals
5) How do you respond to the allegations of institutional racism in our school(s)?
Please know that school staff and administration take all allegations seriously and will not tolerate hate speech, intimidation, discrimination, or bigotry in our schools. The physical and emotional safety of all members of our school community continues to be a top priority. Discrimination and harassment based upon race, sexual orientation, ability, and gender are a growing issue in our society. And, through this process, we have learned that the issue is far more pervasive in our community, district, and schools than we were aware. We plan to continue to listen, provide opportunities to come together, and take action to become leaders in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, here in Maine and beyond.
6) What spurred you to see the movie “Not My Negro” shown by the KHS Civil Rights Team? Did you find the discussion helpful?
This was actually the third time I viewed the movie. Each time I have taken away an expanded understanding. Given the recent events, I viewed the film through the different lens of how we each play a role in change. The subsequent circle discussion with students and staff was a timely activity.
7) What do you believe the roles of the students, staff, and administrators are when handling and moving forward from issues like this?
I believe there needs to be a multi-faceted, collaborative, and transparent approach to understanding, healing, and improvement.
8) Have you read Kurt Stentiford’s letter to the editor? If so, what did you think about it? How much do you consider community feedback or student feedback in decision making?
I have seen a number of letters to the editor over the past few weeks. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to speak to one specific editorial or letter. However, I value and appreciate when community members and, especially students, provide input in decision-making. I have had opportunities to meet with many community leaders, faith-based leaders, students, teachers, and other community members over the past few weeks. My door is open, and I welcome the continued feedback and input.
9) Given the school board’s unanimous decision to raise the pride flag back up, how will you handle/respond to the naysayers who will come out of the woodwork?Would the district like to participate in some community education on the meaning of the rainbow flag?
We believe that the Equity Assessment and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work will provide support for all members of our schools’ communities, especially those from a protected class, including, but not limited to, race, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and disabilities.
10) Do you feel pessimistic or optimistic about everything that’s happened?
Optimistic. This is an opportunity for the community, schools, and students to come together and become leaders of this work in our state and beyond.