The learning community within Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) continues to make major strides in addressing racial equality throughout every classroom and building in the 31,000-student district, thanks to the annual Racial Equity Summit.
“Driving Equity in Education: What’s Your Role?” attracted 42 community partners, 14 parents, 114 IPS staff members, 18 IPS students, 12 university staff/students, and 25 volunteers to the fourth annual summit on March 25.
Hosted by the IPS District Equity Team, the summit is devoted to examining racial equity issues that bring together cross sections of social justice, advocacy, and viewpoints. This year’s event was held on the historic campus of Martin University and featured a keynote address by George Middleton, a mental health counselor.
“We were excited to come together, once again as a family, to our annual gathering to continue the important conversations of aligning our work to advance racial equity in our communities,” said Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, summit chair and IPS English as a New Language senior coordinator.
He noted that by partnering with the Racial Equity Institute in 2015, the IPS learning community has been able to receive the training and guidance needed to increase staff knowledge, shift thinking and elevate understanding.
“Now eight years in the making, our school district is evolving, growing and adapting to meet the needs of our diverse learners and families,” Rodriquez said. “As members of greater Indianapolis, we must recognize that we have much work to do, taking steps to promote diversity while confronting systemic racism, hatred, bigotry and prejudice in every form. We can only live out the IPS mission that is integral to our vision if we are actively working toward greater understanding, greater peace, and greater justice in our schools, in our community, and in our world.”
IPS’ strong and active commitment to diversity will, without a doubt, help ensure that differing views are welcomed, expressed, respected, and heard, and that learning and open discourse can thrive in our community, he said.
“These honest conversations should begin at home and continue throughout the school district, engaging multiple perspectives and embracing the opportunity for deep, important ongoing discussions on issues and topics of the day that affect the most vulnerable,” Rodriquez said. “The unique thoughts, insights and questions each of us can bring to those conversations can only strengthen our commitment and understanding of each other.”
Taking those conversations from the summit into the district is the reason Dr. Patricia Payne, director of the IPS Racial Equity Office, called the event a success.
She said the district must continue to incorporate race equity and inclusion at every stage of its work, including Rebuilding Stronger, language justice policy, curriculum design, fine arts and athletics.
“We have to shift our mindset from what was created so long ago to what we can now create for our community,” Payne said. “The learning must be real but should also focus on creating space where our students are the agent of change and ownership. I encourage everyone that we must move forward with a purpose that is rooted in action as a means to promote change.”