CLH: Building Bridges of Equity and Inclusion in Our Schools

Nov 6, 2023 | News & Events

In the heart of our community, a pivotal movement is underway within the Stevens Point Area School District (SPASD), one that invites others into key conversations around inclusivity and equity in education. This transformative journey, shared in our October 2023 Community Lunch Hour, is not just about changing policies but about shifting how we relate to one another. 

Foundation CEO Jenny Riggenbach was joined by representatives of the Stevens Point Area School District’s Alliance for Equity and Inclusion. They included CFCWI board member and SPASD Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), Sam Dinga, as well as SPASD EDI Program Specialist Gigi Stahl, and McKinley Elementary Principal, Amanda Zanchetti-Mayo.

What does equity look like on the ground? One example includes ‘learning walks’—an initiative where CESA6 steps into the schools, providing fresh perspectives on how our educational spaces can better serve all students. It’s about digging deep into data, unraveling the real stories behind achievement gaps, and understanding that small, thoughtful changes can create ripple effects benefiting all students.

Our conversation shed light on the unique challenges confronting students from multilingual backgrounds. A poignant example from McKinley School revealed the limitations of a monolingual approach. The move toward Universal Design for Learning and more linguistically inclusive classrooms is not just beneficial but necessary. It’s about ensuring every child, regardless of their linguistic background or reading level, has equitable access to their education. Amanda shared that students with special needs show a significantly higher achievement gap compared to their peers, an issue that goes across ethnic and racial lines. Their work recognizes that small changes that benefit marginalized students can enhance the learning environment for all. 

This journey toward equity requires partnerships with families and the broader community to gain different viewpoints and supporting students both in and out of school. It’s about listening—truly listening—to different perspectives and weaving these diverse threads into the fabric of our schools. Whether it’s through community conversations like the one hosted by the Community Foundation or through ongoing feedback mechanisms, every voice is a vital thread in this tapestry.

Events like our recent community conversation are not just about awareness—they’re invitations to unite in building a future where every student doesn’t just belong but thrives. The work of the Alliance highlights how we all have a role to play through voices of support, constructive feedback, and modeling inclusive behaviors at home and in the community. Throughout 2023 and 2024, the Alliance will continue to engage with parents via surveys and focus group discussions as part of their outreach and community-building efforts. 

This Community Lunch Hour conversation was held on Indigenous People’s Day. At the start of the hour, Gigi Stahl shared a land acknowledgement, “The bulk of Portage County occupies the land of Ho Chunk and Menominee people. Please take a moment to acknowledge this ancestral land of the Ho Chunk and Menominee as well as all sacred lands of indigenous people.” On this special day and all days afterwards, we extend an invitation for you to help shape this future. Your support is a bridge to a world of possibility for every child in our community.

Join us and take ACTION:

Watch the recording:

What we’re hearing in our conversation:

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