The Gateway school board Tuesday voted 5-4 to reject recommendations from administrators on how to close the district’s achievement gap between black and white students.
The topic will be addressed again at the board’s May 2 workshop meeting.
The school board had created an achievement gap committee consisting of parents, educators and board members, but several members of the committee who attended Tuesday’s meeting did not agree with the recommendations put forth by the administration.
A main point of disagreement was whether the district should hire a full-time social worker or a full-time equity director.
Administrators recommended adding a full-time social worker and creating an equity team with positions including a diversity consultant and a culturally responsive pedagogy consultant. Committee members advocated for adding a full-time equity director/culturally responsive teaching coordinator, not a social worker.
“It’s not like we only want to help a certain group” of students, said Gateway Middle School teacher Amy Baer, who supports hiring an equity director because, she said, that position would offer assistance to all students.
Ms. Baer also said that $200,000 should be budgeted for the project — which would be a pilot program next school year at Evergreen and Cleveland Steward elementary schools — not the estimated $167,000 budgeted by the district.
Epryl King, who served on the achievement gap committee, agreed that an equity director would provide more benefits than a social worker.
“We know there’s an achievement gap for low-income students” as well as students of various races, she said. “The research has not shown a social worker can close the achievement gap between black and white students,” she said.
“This is not just about minorities,” added resident Rick McIntyre, a candidate for Gateway school board. He said the recommendations from the committee would “raise the bar” for every student.
“This is not a new problem,” board member Chad Stubenbort said, adding the achievement gap has existed since the 1950s.
He said he did not know where the idea of a full-time social worker came from since it was not recommended by the committee.
“I am not in favor of the social worker. I actually think it’s a rather large waste of district funds,” he said.
Board member Stephanie Byrne said she attended all but one achievement gap committee meeting and agreed that the committee had recommended an equity director and not a social worker.
Board member Steve O’Donnell, who led the achievement gap committee, noted that the committee recommended the district establish equity goals and an equity team.
“We recognize the importance of reaching into the homes and helping where that’s required,” he said of having a social worker.
“I think [what was presented] is a comprehensive, quality first step that, to my knowledge, has never been done in the district,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
Mr. Stubenbort, Ms. Byrne, George Lapcevich, Neal Nola and John Ritter voted against the administrators’ recommendations. Mr. O’Donnell, Valerie Warning, Scott Williams and Mary Beth Cirucci voted in favor.
Deana Carpenter, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.