Acalanes Holds First DEI Advisory Board Meeting

 By Brendan Connelly, Online News Editor

// As a result of wanting to connect equity leaders more on campus, school administrators created a new equity board this year to improve Acalanes High School diversity work and unite the school as a whole.

   Headed by Acalanes Principal Eric Shawn, the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board, which consists of student leaders, parents, and faculty, met on Oct. 7 to lay the foundation for discussions on various issues of equity and create a cohesive school-wide equity plan. 

   To form the council, Shawn worked with Leadership and Ethnic Studies teacher Katherine Walton, Associate Principal Andrea Powers, and counselor Marissa Meadows to gather a group of student equity leaders who could contribute to the discussion. 

   “I was asked by my Leadership teacher, Ms. Walton, to consider joining. I am already a member of many other equity-focused clubs and groups on and off-campus. The school has been trying to prioritize equity work on campus, and this Board is meant to bring the opinions of different groups together,” Board member and junior Ava Freeman said. 

   As for parents, the Acalanes Parents Club chose members of their DEI committee to represent them on the Board. Similarly, Shawn offered teachers the opportunity to participate on the Board. 

   “There was a call from Mr. Shawn looking for teachers to represent [for the] Board. And so he sent out an email asking for volunteers. I was excited; I wrote him back right away,” math and Human and Social Development teacher Micole Schwantes said. 

   The Board’s main goal this year is to share the various experiences, perspectives, and work of these groups to effectively address equity issues and goals on campus.

   “I think when you can involve and create opportunities for people to cross dialogues, some really good cross-collaboration can happen and some more authentic experiences [can be] shared in order to make sure that all parties are involved in the process,” Walton said. 

   At the meeting, members of the Board discussed their experiences and perspectives on equity at Acalanes.

   “The goals of the first meeting were primarily around relationship-building, so the various groups on the Board would get to know each other and share some of their experiences,” Shawn said. “We also talked about [the Bias Incident Review Team (BIRT)] and ways that we can better inform our community around BIRT and improve the BIRT process.”

   BIRT, which is a group that reviews and acts on reports of bias incidents on campus, will play a consistent role at future Board meetings. 

   “Starting at our next meeting, we’re going to have a report out every couple months about what some of the reports that are coming in through the bias incident review team process [are] and then how we’re thinking about the systemic changes we need to make as a school and community in regards to issues of bias or inequities,” Shawn said.

   In addition to improving BIRT, the Board wants to create a clear, action-based equity plan that includes input from the community.

   “[The DEI Advisory Board] would help to really guide what’s in that action plan and then hold stakeholders accountable to doing the work and providing updates for what we all see as priorities,” Walton said. 

   Ultimately, the Board aims to improve critical equity work across the Acalanes community. 

   “I think this Board is extremely important because it brings together many different groups of people. I feel like students, staff, and parents have been doing separate equity work, and it’s nice to see everyone together working towards a common goal,” Freeman said. “We are working very hard to make sure every student feels safe and our community is educated on the importance of equity.”

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