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Kokomo Schools commits $500,000 in grant funding to cultural training

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TEACHING — Kati Yotter works with one of her students at Pettit Park Elementary School

Kokomo School Corporation has committed $500,000 in grant funding to use for cultural training to promote “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Yesterday, the school board of trustees approved the use of the funding over a five-year period, with the training set to begin this month and continue through the 2025-2026 school year. Kokomo School Corporation Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the multi-year plan follows work conducted during the fall semester through a cultural training committee, which consisted of Kokomo Teachers’ Association-appointed teachers and members of administration.

“This resource allocation provides the necessary fiscal support to achieve these actionable steps, which were identified and developed by Kokomo Schools personnel through important committee work and community conversations in relation to equity and inclusion,” Hauswald said. “I want to thank those individuals directly involved for their research, ideas, and a strong desire to move forward with this important training for our staff. Implementing cultural training is a direct response to one of the core tenets of our anti-racism statement issued in June 2020, specifically, ‘Educating ourselves about race, anti-Black racism, and white privilege.’”

The funding will be used to create and meet with cultural committees, provide professional development and training to teachers, and create surveys to gauge intercultural and inclusionary language of staff with the goal of developing a cultural language that is inclusive.

The funds also will be used to build a multi-year professional development plan that “provides intercultural competency training which will enhance educators’ knowledge of self and others, while helping strengthen effective teaching, as it relates to working with, and instructing, people from diverse backgrounds who have diverse perspectives.”

Recently-retired Assistant Superintendent Dorothea Irwin led the work associated with implementing the cultural training plan. She said one of the most important goals set by the corporation for the school year was the commitment to professional development regarding racial disparity.

The training, she said, will allow “corporation personnel to grow while understanding and internalizing a sense of urgency to learn the history of racism and its impact on how we relate to each other at the individual level.”

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“Understanding our bias is the beginning step,” Irwin said. 

 As part of the approval, the board entered Kokomo School Corporation into a contract with Educator Aide for initial cultural training to be provided from January through July 2021.

As part of this training, district-wide culture surveys will be obtained from all employees, inclusive leader cohorts will be expanded to three additional schools, social awareness training will be provided to as many as 200 participants, additional strategy and instructional leadership planning will be provided to targeted staff members, additional professional development for continuity purposes will be provided to Kokomo High School, Bon Air Middle School, and Pettit Park Elementary School, while student-facing cultural surveys will be conducted to understand more completely the perspective of our students as it relates to their views on race and cultural competency.

“Educator Aide and our team (including Chicago-based partner firms, Identity Capital & Responsibility) are thrilled to serve the very talented educators of the Kokomo School Corporation,” said Justine Gonzalez, principal consultant for Educator Aide. “Our collaborative process develops cultural skills and mindsets rooted in cultural empathy, yielding awareness, and providing tools to break through biases, impacting more equitable and culturally relevant practices and decision-making.” 

A separate corporation committee also is working on the goal of “learning, designing, and teaching an anti-bias curriculum.”

Hauswald thanked the board for its commitment.   

“I am grateful for tonight’s commitment as we continue our work to assure that all KSC staff members, with deliberate effort, continue to examine and eliminate institutional beliefs, practices, and teaching methods that perpetuate racial disparities in achievement,” Hauswald said. “These efforts will help raise the achievement levels of students by working to eliminate racial predictability associated with student academic outcomes.”

A complete copy of Kokomo School Corporation’s anti-racism statement can be found on the main page of KSC’s website at www.kokomoschools.com.