The province has proclaimed May 23-29, 2021, as Anti-Racism Awareness Week – a chance for British Columbians to celebrate and learn about B.C.’s diverse culture, reflect on biases, and stand together against racism.
In June 2020, former superintendent Sylvia Russell sent a letter to families affirming the district’s commitment to creating fully inclusive learning environments for staff and students. Today, I am writing to provide an update on this important work and to restate our efforts to foster anti-racism and racial inclusivity in the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District.
As former superintendent Russell’s letter stated, our district made a number of immediate changes to prepare us for this important journey, including updates to the Inclusive Schools policy. Much of this work has been championed by the dedicated district staff who sit on our anti-racism committee – a grassroots committee formed at the end of the last school year that has representation from all employee groups. The committee’s work includes (but is not limited to) the collection of learning resources for students and staff, the provision of anti-racism professional development opportunities for staff, and the identification of any barriers to engagement. The baseline data collected by the committee will help us develop a comprehensive anti-racism plan for our district. Recognizing the importance of this work, the Board of Education allocated funding for staffing and resources for this initiative as a part of its 2021/22 budget process.
Our school district is also one of 15 districts participating in the provincial Equity in Action project with the goal of ensuring equitable experiences and educational activities for all Indigenous learners. We are currently in the second stage of this project, engaging district staff, Indigenous rightsholders, and partner groups in a series of guided questions called the Equity Scan. Once the scan is completed, the work will begin to identify strategies to address systemic barriers and formulate goals for equity and transformation.
Our district’s commitment to fostering racial inclusivity is increasingly reflected in school growth plans and the individual professional growth plans of our staff. We anticipate this identification of anti-racism as an area of intentional growth will continue to increase year over year. To support the professional growth of its members in the area of racial inclusivity, the Maple Ridge Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association (MRPVPA) has been offering anti-racism training that provides principals and vice principals with strategies to address incidents of racism in their schools. In the coming school year, the monthly meetings that senior education staff hold with principals and vice principals will include a sequenced component of sessions on racism and inclusivity, which will further support dialogue and progress across all of our schools.
The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District is fully committed to the work of fostering racial inclusivity in our classrooms, our schools, and our offices. I am proud to say this commitment is shared by members at every level of this organization, including SD42 senior staff, the Board of Education, the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association (MRTA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Maple Ridge Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association (MRPVPA), and the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC). We look forward to taking full advantage of all future opportunities to recognize injustices and promote inclusivity and acceptance in our schools and in our communities.
Superintendent of Schools