Frequently Asked Questions

What is DEIJ?
DEIJ is an acronym for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. DEIJ centers around “creating policy, programs, practices and strategies” that embrace the diverse world we live in and that children will navigate. The work strives to create equity of opportunity and access for all students in a welcoming, inclusive school culture. DEIJ directly connects with our district mission to engage every learner to develop and master transferable academic, social, and emotional skills, as well as develop capable and empowered individuals who demonstrate a critical awareness of self and an empathetic awareness of others.
Why did Oyster River begin DEIJ work?
The district mission is to engage every learner. Our DEIJ work is focused on the success of every learner. We began DEIJ work because students and families were telling us that we were not serving historically marginalized student populations fully and that we needed to strive to engage students who were marginalized because of their beliefs, disability, sexuality, gender identification, race, religion, ethnicity, or their socio- economic level (poverty). These factors often resulted in social isolation, lower academic performance, and statistically higher levels of self-harm, including suicide. To sum this up, Oyster River wanted to meet the needs of ALL students.
What is the history of DEIJ work in the district?
As a district we were aware of and responding to incidents with bullying and harassment, mental health, and attendance some of which were linked with marginalized populations.  There are two points in time when the DEIJ work started in earnest. Transgender families approached the district seven years ago concerned that their children and other transgender students were not being supported in the district.  After consulting with professionals in the field, the district created a transgender policy that was adopted by the Board seven years ago. It was recently updated due to advocacy from students as well as staff. The second time involved a racial incident that occurred on a district school bus. This incident caused us to self-reflect, to analyze data, and resulted in a new Board Policy on Racism. There was clearly a need for a more comprehensive approach to supporting all students and a Superintendent’s committee was formed made up of a broad spectrum of stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, and administration. The committee has been working diligently on equity work ever since.
Who and what organizations has the District contracted with over the years?
Initially we contracted with Andrew Smith in 2017. Mr. Smith was the Disproportionate Minority Contact Coordinator for the State of New Hampshire and was charged with determining whether minorities were represented disproportionately in the judicial system. He worked directly with law enforcement across the state. He provided the original diversity workshops for the entire support staff, faculty, and administration. After his sudden passing, we then contracted with New Hampshire Listens from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy. NH Listens met with administration annually to go over proposed workshops and courses, both on campus and at Oyster River Schools. They also worked with faculty in professional learning communities within the schools, have been a resource for community events, and worked with students who have expressed interest in learning more. They helped us to grow as an organization by moving us from a generalized commitment to work with marginalized students, to providing needed specific assistance.
Why hire our own Coordinator?
As appreciative as we are of Andrew Smith and NH Listens, they supported us from outside the organization. The workload and expectations have increased dramatically over these past years. With increased committee work, DEIJ School Board Strategic Plan goals, faculty requests for increased professional development, student desires for additional supports, it is time for an administrator to own this work. To date, it has been shared between the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. We need an in-house coordinator to support our teachers in this work. The coordinator can respond to teachers and administrators in real time, identify age-appropriate materials, research best practices, and identify gaps in our curriculum with teacher support and guidance. The coordinator will support the district’s mission, vision, and goals of the DEIJ committee.