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Ogden School District creates equity body meant ‘to break down barriers’

By Tim Vandenack - | Nov 17, 2021

Emily Anderson, Standard-Examiner file photo

Kindergarteners at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden listen in their classroom on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

OGDEN — Ogden School District officials are moving ahead with a new initiative meant to help break down barriers that may hold certain student groups back, whether connected by race, ethnicity or some other commonality.

Earlier this spring, school officials revealed plans to create the District and Community Advisory Council on Equity, or DCACE, and those efforts are marching forward. Council members have yet to pinpoint the group’s initial goals, but the body has met three times and is narrowing its focus, tapping district data to identify trends and shortcomings to aid in the efforts.

“We want to break down barriers and we want people to feel comfortable in our schools,” whether students or parents, said Luke Rasmussen, the district superintendent. The council “is really about gaining perspective, partnering with our community.”

District spokesperson Jer Bates said countering “barriers to student achievement and learning” will be a likely focus. “Data is a focus of the effort, and owning our data, both celebrations and opportunities to improve, will help provide a clear picture of how to best impact our schools, students and community,” he said.

Arlene Anderson, a member of the Ogden School Board and the DCACE, puts a focus on addressing issues of diversity, inclusivity and equity in the district. As a Latina and the only person of color on the school board, the initiative is important to her.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner

Luke Rasmussen was formally picked to serve as superintendent of the Ogden School District on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. He replaces the departing Rich Nye.

Significantly, the initiative’s expansion comes as the Davis School District reels in the aftermath of the release of a U.S. Justice Department probe late last month that found “serious and widespread racial harassment” of Black and Asian-American students in that school system.

“Just making sure we have that diversity lens in all things we do,” Anderson said. “We want engagement from our community.”

Notably, just over half of the students in the Ogden School District — one of only two minority-majority school districts in the state — identify as Latino. Community members on the group, Anderson noted, represent the Latino, African-American and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning communities, among others.

“It’s just really partnering with those community organizations that can help impact our students,” Rasmussen said.

That said, the initiative is aimed at helping any and all students who may face obstacles in learning.

Emily Anderson, Standard-Examiner file photo

Arlene Anderson poses for a portrait at the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. She was recently elected to the Ogden School District Board of Education.

“And all students means all students,” Rasmussen said.

Former Ogden schools Superintendent Rich Nye, who left last summer to take over as head of the Granite School District, spearheaded initial efforts to create the DCACE, and Rasmussen has continued the process. Apart from community members, DCACE members include school administrators and staffers. Hoa Truong, a consultant from the Los Angeles, California, area who’s an expert in diversity and equity issues in schools, has been hired to serve as a facilitator.

Spreading the word about district resources at parents’ and students’ disposal could also be part of the mission, Rasmussen said. He noted the recent addition of a free tutoring service for Ogden School District students. “We want to be able to push out all these resources,” he said.

So far, group has aided in one concrete respect — helping recruit students for the district’s expanded prekindergarten classrooms, Rasmussen said.

The Weber School District has also bolstered efforts to augment equity in the schools via outreach to diverse elements of the community. The system named its first director of equity, justice and inclusion in 2019 and the post is now held by Jamie Ellis.

“We want to make sure every student feels safe, included and valued in their education,” Ellis said.

Indeed, Bates, the Ogden School District spokesman, said bodies like the District and Community Advisory Council on Equity are increasingly common. “It would have been somewhat unique just a few years ago, but now it is certainly not exclusive,” he said.


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