March is Women’s History Month, so this reflection begins with a deep sense of gratitude for women and women’s work around the world: “Here’s to strong women - May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” I’ve highlighted below several women who have shaped my own understanding, vision, and values around equity.
Living Out our Value of Equity (LOVE)
One such strong woman is Dr. Marisol Morales, Vice President of Network Leadership at Campus Compact. Dr. Morales’s work, among many other things, is research and writing on the concept of a return on equity, similar to a return on investment commonly used in the business world. She framed this notion as LOVE: Living Out our Value of Equity. What is the return to an organization, a community, or perhaps to our children when we live and act according to the value and practice of equity? What are the economic impacts, the public health impacts, the educational impacts, etc.? What would this look like and mean for Jeffco students, staff, and schools?
LOVE in Practice
The practice of LOVE is one of personal reflection and action but is also a call for systemic change at the crossroads of hearts and minds and policy. How does LOVE translate to the work of the Jeffco board of education? I believe there are three key elements that Jeffco Public Schools and its leadership need to weave throughout the district: transformational relationships, healing, and systems change.
Transformational relationships are ones in which five things happen: 1) listening (people feel heard); 2) persistence (no one-and-done efforts); 3) authenticity (the vulnerability to show your true self); 4) high expectations (hold yourself and others accountable), and; 5) show up (be present, particularly when it’s hard). Jeffco board of education directors are elected to represent the voice of the community. As community representatives, Board members must be intentional about developing transformational relationships with community members who have historically been under-represented from the board table. I was reminded of this recently during a conversation with leadership at Conectando, that voice isn’t necessarily volume, and volume shouldn’t determine whose concerns or interests are represented.
By healing, I’m referring to an acknowledgment that policies and practices of the district have caused harm to some members of our community and a sincere intention to create pathways to rectify those harms in the future. We have heard, time and again, the absolute hurt that has been caused to Jeffco students and staff due to inequitable practices and a lack of courage to truly recognize the damage done. Repairing the harm cannot be on the backs of those most harmed. Systems and organizational cultures of oppression are detrimental to every student and staff member in Jeffco, and it is incumbent upon leadership to demonstrate how we lead healing across the district.
Systems change, too, is entirely bound in interpersonal relationships and impacts. As Lillian Roybal Rose said, “Systems are made up of humans, and in order to change systems, we must change humans.” Creating new policies and procedures cannot be effective without the accompanying actions of healing and of working toward transformational relationships. Systems change can create sustainability and codify practices that benefit all students and staff, but are not the sole leg of the stool that the Jeffco board and leadership must focus on as we move forward.
I am certainly not an expert on forging transformational relationships, on recognizing and moving toward pathways of healing, or on creating systems change that alleviates oppression. WhatI am is determined to push forward and “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. I know Voltaire wasn’t a woman, but perhaps I’ll just sneak Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project in here as a substitute.