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    Letter from Principal Friesen About the Equity Team
    Posted on 05/30/2017

    Dear Sacajawea Community,

    At Sacajawea, we greatly value diversity, and our goal is to welcome and include everyone. Unfortunately, a few years ago, there were several racist incidents: name calling, slurs, racist jokes/teasing, insulting an African American student’s natural hair, students using racially loaded comments, and students being excluded because of skin color.

    When we became aware of these incidents, staff members began using strategies to respond, letting students know racism is not acceptable, and that everyone deserves to feel safe and included. In some classrooms, the teachers and I held class meetings, and we implemented an anti-bullying curriculum to address teasing and name-calling.

    While this immediate response was necessary, we also recognize that racism is a large, complex issue. Our staff needs training to build expertise to effectively address these issues within our community.

    An important start was the formation of our Racial Equity Team. In 2015, the team of parents and educators began meeting regularly to create a place for the hard conversations around racism, and to take actions to keep our community safe, healthy, and strong. Several team members attended a series of trainings with other Racial Equity Teams sponsored by Seattle Public Schools. We also met with a facilitator to help us focus our work, and held the Heritage Potluck in order to introduce the team to you, our community.

    Since 2017, Sacajawea’s Racial Equity Team has two work teams that concentrate on different parts of the work of helping Sacajawea be a welcoming place where all students and families have equitable opportunities.

    The parent team helps staff to understand the needs of families and students, supports our annual Continental Focus, and hosts special events such as last year’s Kid’s and Race workshop and our annual Heritage Potluck. They are an excellent resource for staff, students and families and help us to maintain a focus on equity for all.

    The educator team brings resources and professional development around racial equity to the staff, and looks at our academic assessment data and student surveys to help us identify and respond to disproportionalities. Last year, the staff Racial Equity team helped us to work with staff developer, Carrie Cifka-Herrera on culturally responsive teaching and welcoming environment. This year, they are leading our staff in a book study of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and helping teachers with lesson plans and resources for students around racial equity.

    Over the last two years, both teams have been working together, along with our reading specialist, Anne Singh, and our PTA to increase student access to equitable books. This has resulted in a River of Books that travels from classroom to classroom across the year, additions to our classroom and school libraries, and an equity book library for teachers to use in lessons with students.

    Below are some links I’ve found helpful on this important issue:

    https://readingspark.wordpress.com/adoption-childrens-literature/ten-quick-ways-to-analyze-childrens-books-for-racism-and-sexism/

    https://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our_biases_walk_boldly_toward_them?language=en

    http://lifehacker.com/how-to-talk-about-race-with-your-kids-1681298311

    Sacajawea’s Racial Equity Team: http://sacajaweaes.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=7775&pageId=9527657

    Please don’t hesitate to communicate with me as questions or concerns arise. We are a community that cares deeply for every student, family and staff member, and we are committed to being a place where every child is nurtured and successful.

    In Partnership,

    Rachel Friesen, Principal