EESS Communication, Publications, and Resources

Article on Student Involvement in Policy Creation at Milton

[February, 2022] 
Youth and Adults Work Together to Create Milton Town School District Equity Policy
 Milton High School, Milton, VT
By: Christie Howell (UP Program Associate)
“Short, shy, and shallow.” These are the words Wilmer Chavarria, Director of Equity and Education Support Systems, uses to describe the school equity policies he researched when he was tasked with creating one for the Milton Town School District. Chavarria collected a number of policies, and “looked to find major themes and unique aspects, but saw quickly that they were useless.” What was missing, he says, were the voices of multiple stakeholders, which made the policies seem shallow and inauthentic. Over the past few months, Chavarria has been meeting with Milton students, parents, teachers, and staff to ensure that their policy is more than just words, that it instills a sense of belonging that is integral to the fabric of the school district. Read Full Article.

Letter Regarding The Judicial Decisions on Two Major National Cases

[Our Responsibility in the Classroom]
November 24, 2021

Dear School Community,

I normally try not to directly send messages community-wide, but I think it is important to recognize that this past week our nation has witnessed two major precedent-setting events that should be part of the conversations in our classrooms. If you'd like some guidance, please continue reading.

As we try to digest the verdicts coming out of Kenosha and Georgia on a personal level, I also invite you to be ready to open spaces in your own classrooms for dialogue and reflection about what this means for all of us, both here and everywhere. However, topics such as these come with their dose of controversy, and the fear of attacks on our own professionalism can ultimately silence us or prevent us from facilitating productive dialogue no matter your subject or grade level.

I understand this, but I also remind you that you are in a unique position to facilitate this type of reflection in a way that rather than replicating the animosity of adults, can model the type of courageous, honest, and authentically loving dialogue that ultimately equips our students with the civic tools to face the questions of their time. This is a privilege, but also a delicate responsibility. No one knows how to do this in a perfect fashion, but what matters is that you try, no matter how small you think your pedagogical "moves" are. Do it with humility, and do it with purpose. 

Because each of you is at different comfort levels, here are some starting points:
  • These topics are not exclusive to ELA or social studies. No matter the subject or space, lessons on evidence, research, justice, fairness, collaboration, accountability, etc. are part of practically every set of standards and every set of practices in all aspects of schooling.
  • Speaking of standards, familiarize yourself with the standards that allow you (and encourage you) to create dialogical and collaborative spaces in your classroom.
  • Take your time, but do not shy away from speaking of race, justice, systems, polarization, and trauma. You are not proselytizing, you are exposing students to authentic knowledge and the relevant conversations of the time.
  • Be kind with yourself and with your students. You are not responsible to solve a national problem in a single day and in your classroom alone. We will do it together.
  • Open space for all voices, but do not allow hate to proliferate. Encourage all views without attacking people's humanity and right to exist free of harassment.
  • Use multiple sources that provide multiple angles (as opposed to multiple sources saying the same thing). Again, this does not mean permissiveness for hate.
  • Avoid partisan public figures and talking points. Fairness and love are not exclusive to a party.
  • Make use of your colleagues. Some of your peers have been on this journey for a while, and there are some outstanding professionals down the hallway. Although they are not remunerated for this, I've never been turned down when I reach out for help or for an opinion.
  • Reach out to me if you need to. Although I am not going to dictate the specifics of what you do, I think about these things daily from a policy and systems perspective, and I might have insight that you could find useful.

I know that's a lot of text up there, and if you made it all the way here, I thank you. Trust me that this work will only become more and more important for yourself and your community now and in the future. Know that our commitment to fomenting justice through our students is a long and patient journey. Let's help each other along the way.

With Appreciation, Wilmer