At last month’s Revere Public School Committee meeting, RPS’s Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Inclusion Dr. Lourenço Garcia has updated members on the new Equity Advisory Board (EAB) that was created over the summer.
The EAB, proposed by School Committee member Anthony D’Ambrosio and adopted by the School Committee in July, will examine racial, disability, gender, and religious equity issues in the schools.
At the meeting Dr. Garcia gave an overview on what the EAB team has been working on and what they’ll be doing in the days to come.
“COVID-19 and the issues that are taking place in our country in terms of race, and in terms of implicit bias and structural racism and other big things that we are all hearing about lately in our country have been really affecting our people and our communities and our schools in general,” said Garcia. “So the (EAB) is something we needed. It is an initiative that really is important for our school in terms of equity.”
Garcia said all the reviews of the literature he has done so far clearly states that Revere needs something like an EAB in the schools.
“It’s a necessity,” he said. “In light of what’s going on in our country we have to put forward the question and ask if we really need one. What the board really does is make sure we raise the social consciousness around the structural institutional and systemic racism that is basically impacting our children. The COVID-19 pandemic really put a lot of focus on this issue, because of the lack of opportunity in not only with things like internet access but the impacts on our families in terms of healthcare, in terms of economics, jobs, and so on and so forth. These are the institutional barriers out there and are important for us to know about so we can maneuver around and really create opportunities for our families and for our children in our schools and in our community.”
Garcia said administrators and the School Committee can not do it alone and it requires a ‘village’ to do this important work.
“Everyone needs to be really part of this,” he said. “And everyone needs to make sure that the structures we put together and the initiatives we put together to dismantle inequities in our system are monitored. And to do that work we really need to start shifting the tectonic plates of racism. We got to start dismantling it, and call it out. When we see it in our classrooms, in a conversation in the hallway, and when we see things in our community we need to call it out.”
Garcia said the first thing the EAB did to move forward was meet with RPS Superintendent Dianne Kelly and get recommendations on what teachers should be involved.
Soon a group of 22 RPS teachers were on board and were geared up for the task.
“Those are unbelievable teachers, you should see them in meetings, the way they act, the advocacy they put together,” said Garcia. “They are very knowledgeable about racism and the implication of racism in our society, in our school districts and how that really impacts the classroom. At the meetings that have already been held these very enthusiastic teachers are willing to tackle this work, and they are willing to work with the school department to really continue to improve our school system.”
Garcia said the group has already applied for a Nellie Mae Education Foundation grant to target structural racism in schools.
“So, the first thing we did was apply for the grants and the entire team has contributed to the narrative that went into the grant,” he said. “We submitted the grant application to Nellie Mae. And if we are accepted, these grants will be huge in terms of how the school department will be able to create structures that can change the system for our minority students.”
In the end, Garcia said the biggest partner as the EAB initiative moves forward and develops will be the community at large.
“The most important partners are, to be honest, are our students, our families, our community partners, our faculty members and, obviously, our school committee members,” said Garcia.
D’Ambrosio, who advocated for the EAB’s creation, thanked Garcia and all the teachers working on this initiative so far.
“Your work is pivotal and it’s going to drive us ahead and it’s going to be incredibly appreciated in coming months and years,” said D’Ambrosio. “So, I’m sure, you know, I can speak for all of us when I say that we very much appreciate it. Going forward, I think that it’s absolutely kind of crucial that we start considering parental and student participation as well. It’s going to be crucial. I would just kind of like to kick that ball off and like to ask some School Committee members to begin thinking about potential nominations of parents and to think about potential nominations of students.”