Education leaders discuss racial equity in Kansas schools

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas school leaders say not all students are receiving the same type of quality education.

Black school leaders are working together to start a dialogue about racial disparity issues in schools.

Of the state’s 286 school districts, five of them have a superintendent that is black. On Tuesday, four of them, as well as a black school board member, held an online discussion.

The attendees included superintendents from Topeka, Geary County, Lawrence, and Kansas City. The school board member was from Seaman High School in Topeka.

They talked about closing opportunity gaps for minority students and how to make sure that the educational experience is equitable.

“How are we helping young people see themselves as worthy of accessing those opportunities,” Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Tiffany Anderson said. “We’re also challenging mindsets, how are we making sure that our staff that we have, whether they are people of color or not, have the mindset of understanding history, diversity, the importance of sense of belonging and ways to create it.”

Anderson said with what is happening around the country, now is the time to try to make a lasting difference in the lives of struggling students.

“When things happen, it can be a moment or a movement, I am hoping and trusting that this can be a movement,” Anderson said.

They discussed curriculum, how money is spent in schools, the need to hire more diverse teachers and bias in discipline.

“Take a look at the individuals who are being suspended, take a look at the students who are in your lowest performing classes, take a look at the students who are in your lowest performing schools, if they all look alike, we have an issue,” Charles Foust, superintendent for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, said.

The leaders said it’s important to get everyone involved in the conversation.

“If you’ve been one that’s kind of been sitting on the sidelines, it’s time to start moving, and moving in that direction to positively impact every child that comes through our doors,” Frank Henderson Jr., member of the Seaman School Board, said.

Anderson said continuing to talk about the issues can lead to meaningful change.

“We can really be trailblazers in Kansas, and show that the same work that was done under Brown v. Board that changed schools across the nation can be work that we do right now in this area of equity that changes and leads the way for the nation,” Anderson said.

“There’s a lot to tackle, which is why conversations can’t end today, they have got to be ongoing,” she said.

More online discussions will be happening in the coming weeks. The next will feature the Wichita and Caney Valley superintendents, both of whom are minorities.

The discussions are put on by the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas and Topeka Public Schools.

You can watch Tuesday’s meeting here.

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