2022 Excellence Trough Equity Conference

2022 Excellence Trough Equity Conference
Posted on 11/23/2022
2022 Excellence Through Equity ConferenceDURHAM – The Oyster River Cooperative School District is pleased to share that school administrators, educators, and a student delivered professional development presentations on equity and justice issues to educators from across the state.

The District was invited to participate in the 2022 Excellence Through Equity Conference, organized by the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. Over 60 educators and administrators participated in the event held on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

The Oyster River representatives -- Rachael Blansett, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice Coordinator; Suzanne Filippone, Assistant Superintendent; Val Wolfson, Social Studies Educator; Kyra Dulmage, Grade 5 Educator; and Paige Burt, a Senior at Oyster River Regional High School and Student Representative to the School Board – presented “Cultivating Capacity for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Work.”

The session discussed the District’s ongoing work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) efforts, and offered resources to participants seeking to support this work in their own communities.

Oyster River amplified its equity efforts following a 2017 incident in which a multiracial child was bullied on a school bus. “People were saying, ‘I never thought this would happen here,’” Blansett said. “And then they said, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ It was a perfect storm of support.”

The District immediately opened lines of dialogue and encouraged stakeholders to speak about their own experiences. Community members took several steps, including forming “Oyster River Community Read,” a community collaboration whose goal is to bring the community together through the shared experience of reading a book or other media. The grassroot initiative partnered with the district to design Oyster River’s first community forum focused on DEIJ.

Oyster River High School student Paige Burt shared that many students became involved by starting a club around DEIJ issues, with subgroups working on interest areas including race, gender, ableism, and sustainability. Students also reviewed curriculum offerings and identified gaps in knowledge in their education.

“The power of student voice is vital with this work,” said Superintendent James Morse, who created a DEIJ community group.

The district's teachers and educators also actively participated in the Superintendent’s DEIJ Committee, which connected them with groups that advocate for those under-represented in the region. Together, they collaborated on restorative justice practices.

Another step was revising the District’s transgender and gender expression policies as well as the anti-racism policy. The goal is to provide a safe environment for students to be affirmed in their identity.

Those efforts were supported by the School Board and School Administration, who updated policies and stressed the importance of professional development for ORCSD staff and faculty.

“Our administration told us explicitly that we stand for affirming this work, and then gave us the time to do it,” Dulmage said.

This work led to the creation of the DEIJ Coordinator position and the hiring of Blansett, who is one of only four full-time DEIJ administrators in the state. Filippone said, “We feel fortunate to have Rachael joining the district to guide and support us in our work.”