At the Monroe County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees meeting Tuesday, a summer talk series on race was introduced, and the board approved a $12 million renovation and improvement project.
Markay Winston, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, talked about the Real Talk Critical Discussion Series in the 2019-20 school year. MCCSC is bringing back the critical discussions this summer in a virtual format to discuss recent killings of black people by police officers and the tensions that have followed both locally and nationally.
Winston said during the meeting that the series launched in fall 2019 in response to racial incidents in the Bloomington community.
Winston presented poll data collected from MCCSC students regarding bias and response. The polls found that 79% of students agree that MCCSC’s teachers need to discuss racism, discrimination and inequality and that 75% felt always or often heard when they discuss these issues among their friends.
Regarding bias and school environment, 58% of students responded that the hard part of discussing racism, discrimination and inequality is that it creates tension, 25% say the hard part is accidentally offending someone and 21% say it’s that they don’t know enough about the issues. Fifty-eight percent responded they would like more opportunities to discuss racism, discrimination and inequality.
“When we began to look at and respond to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent responses throughout our country and across the world, we knew that we had a moral obligation to respond to the data that we gathered from our young people during the school year, but more importantly to give them an outlet because they are in pain,” Winston said during the meeting.
She said that giving students a voice and a safe environment to be heard is a central goal of Real Talk Summer Series.
The talks are facilitated by Rafi Hasan, equity and inclusion coordinator for MCCSC, and Maresa Murray, clinical associate professor and director of undergraduate education for the Department of Applied Health Science at the IU School of Public Health. The series kicked off June 17 with two sessions of Q&A titled “How to Talk About Race with Teens.”Winston said between the two sessions around 100 people participated.
The Summer Series will have four remaining sessions on Wednesdays each week until July 22. On July 8, the series will invite four local police officers, both male and female, Black and non-Black, to talk about the personal challenges they face with how they are perceived, Winston said.
“We think it’s a wonderful opportunity to break down some of the barriers and misconceptions that exist,” she said.
Details about topics and dates of the talks can be found on MCCSC’s website.
During the meeting, the Board of School Trustees also approved a $12 million renovation and improvement project for schools and facilities, including Bloomington High School North and South, Templeton Elementary School, University Elementary School and support facilities throughout the school corporation, according to the project resolution.
“The purpose of the Project is to provide an improved educational environment for students,” the resolution reads.
The Board also approved the appointment of Alexis Harmon, career pathway coordinator at North Lawrence Community Schools and adjunct lecturer at the IU Kelley School of Business, as principal of the Academy of Science & Entrepreneurship, a Bloomington high school. She was previously an English teacher at Bloomington High School North and served as English department chair and as a corporation instructional coach for MCCSC.