On Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners voted to expand racial equity training from the Racial Equity Institute (REI) throughout the district. This vote makes such training an ongoing and intentional part of the new IPS.

This is an important step for the district. Deputy Superintendent of Academics Dr. Wanda H. Legrand said, “Racial equity training, understanding and awareness make us better at teaching the students we serve. It’s an important piece that makes us better at our jobs.”

IPS Administrator on Special Assignment Patricia Payne, an expert in cultural competency education herself, was instrumental in championing the training and in selecting REI to work with the district. In her recommendation letter to the Board in “passionate support” of both the proposal and REI, she stated, “There is no doubt in my mind that if approved, our school district will benefit tremendously from this organizational transformation approach that is so urgently needed in this day and time.”

The district-wide expansion includes

  • An Equity Team that will handle equity issues throughout the district. REI will train and advise this team.
  • Ten pilot schools where REI will train all staff members and even community partners
  • Youth trainers from REI who will educate youth leaders at the secondary school level

According to their own “Anti-Racism Workbook,” REI trainers and organizers provide an analysis of racism and its cultural and historical roots, assistance in developing an anti-racist vision and plan for change and coaching for traditional and emerging leadership in the principles and practices of anti-racism.

Deena Hayes-Green, managing director of REI, said that current diversity movements have “done an effective job, for the most part, in changing the complexion of the people in organizations. I don’t know if we have diversified the realities of the people that work in there and the folks that they look like or represent.” REI seeks to address that deeper change.

So though individuals undergo the training, REI’s focus is clearly organizational, helping people change their attitudes so that they can change the organizations and structures they are part of.

Conducting the training district-wide and committing intentionally to ongoing racial equity is important because if an organization like IPS wants to recognize its own shortcomings, change and move forward, all pieces of that organization must engage in that effort.

Some IPS employees already experienced REI’s training this summer and felt the impact of it. Corye Franklin, Principal at William Penn School 49, said the REI consultants “are courageous and assist in deinstitutionalizing racism and eliminating the racial achievement gap. The work we do in public education requires this level of consciousness.”

“For me, this training was all about perspective—what I thought I knew versus what I need to know,” said Bridgette Robinson, IPS Director of Federal and Special Programs. “I truly believe this will contribute in our success of improving academic achievement. In order to teach, we must first learn!”

Thanks to the leadership the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, this vote paves the way for all of IPS to start learning and moving forward together by continually examining our organization and ourselves.