Dallas ISD leaders detail steps to radically improve equity and eliminate racism
In a webinar focused on emotional intelligence and strategies aimed at dismantling racism in Dallas ISD, district leaders signaled last evening that parents and students can look forward to a much-improved environment of equity in every aspect of district operations. The promise came with a commitment to change the culture of Dallas ISD by training staff, enacting new norms and actively measuring progress and accountability around the goal.
Director of Dallas ISD’s Racial Equity Office Dr. Sharon Quinn opened the webinar, “Using Emotional Intelligence to Create an Anti-Racist School System,” which was led by national diversity and inclusion expert Dr. Sandra Upton with the Cultural Intelligence Center. Upton opened with definitions of terms related to racism and provided several tip sheets with actions parents, teachers, administrators and community members can take to dismantle racism. The tip sheets are available here.
Defining racism as an underlying belief in the superiority of one race over another and its right to dominate, Upton emphasized that racism is a combination of prejudice and power. Other terms she defined included cultural intelligence or CQ, which is the ability to lead, teach and serve a diverse population of students and families; particularly African American students and other underrepresented groups. CQ is a skill that can be learned, and anti-racists, Upton said, are people who take intentional action to oppose racism, racist systems and structures. With that definition as the backdrop, each of the district’s eight chiefs detailed the anti-racist actions they are taking to level the playing field for Black and English learner students.
Admitting that the district has historically fallen short at meeting the needs of Black students and English learners, Chief of Staff and Racial Equity Pam Lear said the district began efforts funding of the district’s Racial Equity Office followed by a resolution declaring the importance of Black lives and Black students and a call to apply all available district resources to redress historical inequities.
Lear said starting at the highest levels, Dallas ISD is continuing the work by providing districtwide staff development on cultural intelligence, unconscious bias and developing an equity mindset. The training will be coupled with ongoing monitoring of 100 percent of district operations, from curriculum, teacher training and materials, and staff hiring practices to communication, technology distribution, specialty school admission processes and funding and resource allocation.
As each of the eight chiefs joined the conversation, they shared the actions they and their staffs are taking to intentionally transform their areas of responsibility.
Chief of School Leadership Jolee Healey said there will be training to make teachers alert to the damaging effects of unconscious bias that can lower expectations and shortchange students. Other efforts will include better monitoring and sharing of student progress in ways that improve outcomes for all students.
Communications Chief Libby Daniels pledged her team will make a deliberate effort to tell stories about the staff and students who are doing meaningful work across the district to achieve equity. She shared a snapshot of a new webpage called Voices that she promised would tell impactful stories and show images that elevate students and reflect models that look like them to communicate that there is a path to success.