Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Innovation is not a destination it is a journey. Companies know that innovation cannot happen without Diversity and Inclusion, simply put employees are happier and more productive when they are in an inclusive work environment. Similarly, successful companies see innovation as a daily challenge, you need to continue to strive for innovation to keep from falling behind. Southlake is a community of BIG IDEAS and together we can use these ideas to move our district forward.
I have students in different programs in our district; G&T, on-level, and Special education so I have tried to brainstorm ideas for all of these groups to move our district forward. I think our district needs to enhance our curriculum to focus on 21st Century Skills (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity) which businesses are looking to develop. These 21st-century skills are the groundwork for the leaders of the future.
Innovation Ideas for our Gifted and Talented Students:
Propose an international studies program to focus on the demands of an increasingly global business world.
Build future leaders by leveraging 21st-century skills instead of developing individual contributors.
Developing internship and mentoring opportunities within our business and entrepreneurial community. I would also like to see the CMA maximizing these opportunities within our community.
Developing an innovative business curriculum that would leverage the business leaders in our community. Ideas may include students developing and beginning a business and think-tanks sponsored by business leaders of our community.
Involving G&T parents as stakeholders to develop a more robust G&T program.
Implement Project-Based Learning (PBL), promoting Collaboration, communication, and Critical thinking.
Innovation for our On-Level Students:
Engagement. Improved outcomes will result from improved engagement; I feel our students would benefit from being more involved in both their schools and their community. I see the benefits of programs like the Do Something Different Campaign.
2021-2022, The year to Do Something Different!! Simply put, the Do Something Different Campaign is an initiative to encourage kids to try new things and get out of their comfort zone. The specific goal would vary by campus but at its goal, the movement encourages kids to create a campus that is more respectful and inclusive, to welcome diversity of all sorts, and encourage students to join the effort to improve their community.
Hire from a more diverse candidate pool of teachers and support their continuing education (only 26% of our teachers have master's degrees) and rewarding our outstanding teachers.
Develop critical thinking skills and skills to encourage lifelong learning. Also using Project-Based Learning (PBL).
Develop programs that help our on-level students stand out on college application processes.
Not all students need a 4-year college degree for their chosen path, I would like to see a more robust tech ed program for students with a community college partnership.
Integration. Research supports that integrating our special education students into a less restrictive environment benefits all students and improves social skills. Evaluate programs like bestbuddies.org.
Provide the tools to track services provided and collaboration to help fill the gap between IEP and service logs.
Recognize that our students have been further left behind by COVID and consider offering an additional year of education for them or a COVID academy after regular school hours.
SPED test scores have been repeatedly cited in the District Improvement Plan, we need to hold the administration accountable for actually developing a plan to address this.
Place weekly IEP progress reports in skyward so parents have a way to track student progress.
Improved pay for paraprofessionals; provide ABA training with a goal of ABA certification for every paraprofessional as part of continuing education offerings.
A true parent-led SEPAC, many of you have heard my wife championing for this (with other SPED parents); we need this to be parent-led so that parents finally have a voice in the system-wide issues of our Special Education Programs.
You can not discuss Innovation without discussing Diversity and Inclusion. Unfortunately, I feel our community discussion about D&I has been overtaken by fear, misunderstanding, and divisive rhetoric which is not moving this community forward. Our community is better than this, we need a commonsense plan to address Diversity and Inclusion in our Schools.
Differences are good, they make us who we are and makes the world a colorful place to explore. Students must understand this and strive for a more inclusive culture that embraces empathy and differences while also understanding and extinguishing the negatives that are part of our differences. Those negatives include racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (one that has largely been left out of our community discussion).
I think most of us see Diversity and Inclusion training as a positive gift that we can give our children and should be a tool to reflect on the world’s vast diversity and the importance of equity. Our students should also understand how to use their privilege (because we certainly have those in the US as a whole and Southlake specifically) to help those less fortunate.
Companies have walked this path for years and have adopted diversity and inclusion into their corporate culture. A robust diversity and inclusion plan is a step on our path to becoming a district of innovation developing 21st-century skills for our students.
Student wellness IS improved by diversity and inclusion! This is supported in the literature.
Why is it important to embrace D&I and teach about culture in the classroom?
Students become more empathetic; this is also a goal of my proposed restorative justice program.
Students gain a better understanding of other people and cultures.
Students become more open-minded.
Students gain confidence when they feel safe and when they are active participants in improving culture in schools.
Students are prepared for a diverse higher education program and workplace.