The final wording for the OSBA Board-approved “Call for Equity” was presented during the board’s Friday meeting.
“OSBA is committed to supporting boards in their just and fair distribution of resources based upon each student’s needs,” the statement reads in part.
OSBA Board President-elect Sonja McKenzie said the call to action, along with its commitments, show OSBA’s intention to move forward with board members’ vision of supporting all students around the state.
The statement’s commitments include learning and modeling equitable practices, supporting the unique needs of each district, and amplifying voices of all communities in state decision-making. The equity commitment is an extension of a board goal adopted in September 2020. The board unanimously approved the call in concept during its December meeting.
McKenzie, who is treasurer for the Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus and a Parkrose School Board member, was part of the committee that drafted the call. She said the call is a starting point for acknowledging the impacts on some groups of historical systemic racism and lack of access.
With today’s highly charged school board environment, McKenzie said, OSBA board members were mindful of the words they chose, seeking language that would engage people and encourage discussion and discovery.
“Equity should be a word that invites positive discussion,” said McKenzie. “It really is about providing support where there are gaps. … It will look different with every child, every family and every school.”
OSBA Board Vice President Erika Lopez said it is unfortunate the word “equity” has become polarizing. Lopez is a Hillsboro School Board member and an Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus director. She said equity efforts respond to a range of challenges, such as lack of internet access, poverty, homelessness or special needs.
“Equity is looking at what a child needs and how to meet those needs,” she said. “School boards are doing equity work and may not even know there is a word for it.”
OSBA Board President Scott Rogers gave the example of school boards’ examining graduation data to figure out where they can strategically supply supports.
Racial and ethnic equity understanding is a core part of OSBA’s effort, but by no means all of it, said Rogers, the Athena-Weston School Board chair. He said crafting the call brought together board members from all over the state with different backgrounds and values to answer what equity means in their communities.
“OSBA stands for student achievement and doing good things for kids,” Rogers said. “Ultimately equity is going to improve student outcomes.”