Christina Spears | Special Assistant in Equity Affairs | Wake County Public Schools
Every day I’m afforded the opportunity to serve as the Special Assistant to Dr. Rodney Trice, the Assistant Superintendent for WCPSS’s Office of Equity Affairs (OEA). Often times when I share that job title with people, they ask, “what do you do?” or “what does the Office of Equity Affairs do?”
A few weeks ago, I made an appearance on the Public School Forum of NC’s weekly program, Education Matters, as a feature for the Education Leader Spotlight. As this was my first public appearance in my new role as Special Assistant, I was encouraged to practice describing my job to anyone who would listen. I quickly realized how difficult it was to describe the work our team does in a succinct manner because equity is a lens we should have to take a critical look at all of the systems and structures that perpetuate inequities. We understand that inequities exist for marginalized communities and we know that we can predict achievement based on social and cultural factors, such as race, socioeconomic status, and special education status. Equity is not a flavor of the month or a one-time professional development, but a lens we should use to examine our curriculum, our instructional practices, our dispositions with students, our engagement with communities, our institutional systems and structures, and on and on.
Because WCPSS believes equity should be a common thread in all of our practices, the office expanded last Spring to include specific roles for addressing equity coaching and leadership, student engagement, family and community engagement, teacher support, and professional learning. As Special Assistant, or project manager, I work to ensure our collective work in these areas is aligned and meets the needs of individual stakeholders in our district while living out our core beliefs each day.
My favorite aspect of my day-to-day responsibilities is working directly with teacher leaders to provide quality professional learning opportunities and support them in creating equitable classroom environments for their students. Here come the shout outs:
Shout out to the Teach Us All team!
I started working with a dedicated group of teachers and administrators to provide a dynamic professional learning experience for educators across WCPSS. We held screenings of the documentary Teach Us All which focuses on educational inequality set against the backdrop of the 1957 Little Rock school crisis. Following the viewing, the TUA team facilitated courageous conversations about race and education through the circle process. These learning experiences were engaging, open, honest, and teacher-led. Thank you Michael Parker West, Roxann Sykes, Dan Gridley, Ryan Williams, and Jennifer Bell! We will continue to provide Teach Us All screening this year. Our first event is Saturday, October 6 at East Millbrook Middle School.
Shout out to Social Justice Teachers!
Teachers are eager for the opportunity to collaborate with the OEA team to create units of study which take a hard look at how we teach history and how we provide curriculum that invites diverse perspectives and elevates marginalized voices. Rebecca Stith (English teacher), Tonya Hannah (Social Studies teacher), and Jessica Martz (School Counselor) are co-creating an English and American History course which uses circle processes to facilitate difficult conversations about social justice issues throughout history. Gregg Halkuff, Social Studies teacher, is engaging students at his school in Conversations in Diversity. Students will explore and reflect on a variety of perspectives on current domestic and global social problems. The structure and content of this course will allow critical thinking, dialogue, and examination of bias, prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. Thank you educators for your commitment to social justice work in our schools!
Shout out to Equity Leaders far and wide!
This summer, our team has engaged in coaching conversations and professional learning with dozens of leaders across several departments, including district leaders, administrators, transportation staff, lateral entry teachers, mentor coordinators, coaches and instructional resource teachers, and community organizations. We are looking forward to institutionalizing systems and structures that build equity leadership for all stakeholders in our district!
Last but certainly not least, shout out to my Office of Equity Affairs team! Thank you Dr. Trice for putting together a rockstar team of educators. Teresa, Lauryn, MariaRosa it is a pleasure to work and learn alongside you each day!