MUNCIE — Schools across the country and here at home are implementing changes when it comes to racial equality, and Muncie Community Schools is one of the many that’s already acting on ways to represent their community.
“Black and brown students need to know that they are valued,” said Rhonda Ward, the new director of diversity for Muncie Community Schools.
Ward wants to make sure all students feel accepted and safe. She believes Muncie Community Schools is on track to make big changes.
“They need to know that they are special,” she added. “They are important.”
That start with the curriculum. Ward says African American history is part of American history, and adding more relevant material is critical for a student’s education.
“It’s just a cycle, and a lot of the things that are happening now are things that happened a long time ago, and I think if students knew that they would be able to better understand and grasp what’s going on today,” explained Ward.
It’s a conversation that’s spanned across Indiana. In June, Indianapolis Public Schools approved a racial equity policy and Black Lives Matter resolution.
In Muncie, as part of the push for inclusion, it will also require all student resource officers to under-go implicit bias training this summer. The training will also be required for bus drivers and front office staff.
“This person is here to help me and keep me safe, other than, ‘Oh, he’s going to arrest me,’” said Ward. “They are there to help them, to keep them safe in the building, and they’re kind of like their friend. They can go to them just like they can a teacher or an administrator.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017 and 2018, roughly 79% of public school teachers were White, nine% were Hispanic, and seven% were Black. Ward says she’s disappointed but not surprised. Muncie has 6,000 students, and only 10% of teachers are people of color.
“We do have a few ideas in mind where we can recruit some teachers of color, because as we all know a lot of students of color do much better when they have a teacher in front of them that looks like them, that they can relate to,” said Ward.
Lee Ann Kwiatkowski is the CEO of Muncie Community Schools. She’s proud of what’s been accomplished in just a short amount of time but understands there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“It’s important for our student population to have teachers and administrators that reflect the diverse group of students, and so that is one of our goals,” said Kwiatkowski. “I’m confident that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Muncie schools have published their re-opening plans. Students will head back to class on August 11. They may participate in traditional, in-person learning or a new virtual program.
The district is hosting registration events on July 14 and July 16 at the schools for families.