The recent NSBA 2022 Equity Symposium provided an opportunity for school board members to network and to examine and discuss best practices around equity and excellence in our nation’s public PK-12 schools. We heard motivating and exceptional presenters like the opening keynote speaker Anthony Robles, NCAA Wrestling Champion and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee. He emphasized that we should never let a challenge be an excuse. Instead, we should adapt, adjust, and change to find a different opportunity to overcome the challenge. This was a fitting parallel to NSBA members on how to overcome challenges we have recently experienced: keep moving forward and stay focused on the right thing and on what we can control.
At the root of our discussions, we were reminded that educational equity does not mean that every child receives exactly the same thing. Parents know this instinctively. Every child in a household is unique. Although we love each of our children, their needs, desires, and aspirations are individually developed and individually attained. It is through this fundamental, natural development that we experience what equity really means: Each child receives what he or she needs to develop to his or her full potential.
School board members know the power of education to transform lives and that we are all teachers. We learn from one another. Parents are the essential teachers, and the family, extended family, and community members provide life experiences, lessons, and examples to young people and to one another. Often, our most profound lessons are those we learn through vicarious, everyday experiences that stay with us for a lifetime. What adults say and do become life lessons to developing young minds. Equity work entreats us to understand that peoples’ unpredictable and unkind reactions cannot be the reason for us to stay quiet.
The struggles and strife we have experienced over the last two years are partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, recent emerging and rapid changes have challenged us to respond and adapt quickly and differently to these trials. Our humanity has been tested. We have sometimes failed to recognize that all people need validation, reassurance, and reminders of our goodness and our endless possibilities.
Board members have taken seriously this responsibility to equitably educate all our children, especially the most vulnerable and those most in need of additional resources, time, love, and understanding. Equitable educational opportunities present themselves in a myriad of ways. We must share the truth and facts as accurately as we can in the content taught in our schools. Instruction must be based on facts and be free from political or religious persuasions. Our equity work must include the arts as instruments of a common language: music, dance, visual arts, writing, poetry, and theater, which have evolved as expressions of our connectedness and humanity.
So, fellow board members, it’s about what we do in 2022 and beyond. We need everyone, the entire community, to give our students the best chance for success. I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to have engaged and worked with you this past year. We have many virtues to master, but it is critical that we turn to one another, not against one another. “Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course.” — Proverbs 2:9.
Viola Garcia, NSBA’s 2021-22 president, is a member of Texas’ Aldine Independent School District Board of Trustees.