One School - Inspiring Equity in Education
Bristol Central High School, located in west Bristol, serves one of the most socio-economically challenged and culturally and racially rich areas in the city. However, the racial and cultural makeup of the educational staff does not reflect the makeup of the student body. In addition, it has been found that the educational staff at Bristol Central High School (BCHS) does not have a background of experiences and hardships like the students. This not only creates a divide between the teachers and students, but it also leads to the teachers developing biases that negatively affect the quality and effectiveness of students’ education.
“Teachers must eliminate stereotypes and have the same expectations for all their students,” said Peter Wininger, Principal of BCHS. “We want to confront this uncomfortable issue of inequity head on and commit to the creation of a school community that values and appreciates everyone and utilizes their diversity as an asset that enhances their school.”
With Main Street Community Foundation acting as the school’s fiscal sponsor, providing guidance and advice to administration, BCHS was awarded a $10,000 Inspiring School Equity grant from the William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund to conquer that challenge.
All staff and students at Bristol Central High School will read A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home by Steve Pemberton. This memoir is a story of resilience and how education helped this bi-racial, abused foster child reach his potential and eventually become the Chief Diversity Officer of Walgreens.
“Steve Pemberton’s story should have a tremendous impact on our students and teachers and it will help them understand the cultural and racial differences among them,” stated Peter Wininger.
The entire school will read the book at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. During that time, discussion topics and reflective questions will be given to students and they will have the opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas and reactions through literature circles and other events. As the culminating event, Steve Pemberton will come to BCHS to speak with staff and students about perseverance. In addition, two members of the educational staff will attend Gary Howard’s Deep Equity Institute. This two day workshop will provide cultural competency training for educators and give them the resources to impact change and create more equitable learning experiences for students. The BCHS representatives that attend can then bring back the information and share it with their colleagues.
“The entire school is committed to this project. The educational staff has deemed this a priority and we already have a team in place,” Peter Wininger stated. The RAM (Respect, Accept and Motivate) Cultural Competency Council is made up of BCHS administrators as well as individuals from the education community and the greater Bristol community representing diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.
Peter Wininger hopes that this not only helps the educational staff build better relationships with students but it will also help close the achievement gap. “We cannot close the achievement gap just through focusing on instruction. We need to address on multiple levels, the intentional or unintentional biases and racism that play in the creation and perpetuation of those gaps. We want to build effective, sustainable programming to increase the academic and social success of all students.”