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New 3-year plan includes steps to address racial conflict

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District has developed and started implementing a 16-page plan to address racial conflict, responding to a recent taskforce report.

The Taskforce on Racial and Cultural Harmony, a 50-member group formed by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman following the violence at South Philadelphia High School, examined the issue districtwide, produced a report last fall, and charged the District with implementing a plan for addressing issues of race and culture within 90 days.

The District’s new plan describes numerous policies, programs, committees, curricula, and trainings it will phase in over a three-year period, with an emphasis on the following 10 "major initiatives" to promote racial and cultural harmony:

  • Harassment and bullying policies;
  • Anti-bullying programs;
  • Character education;
  • The Blue Ribbon Commission on school safety;
  • School climate scorecards for each school;
  • Integration of multiculturalism across the curriculum;
  • Evaluation of staff "cultural competencies;"
  • Diversity training for staff;
  • Parent and Family Resource Centers;
  • Parent University.

Jennie Wu, deputy for strategic planning and implementation, said the District will monitor and document progress on the annual goals in each area through the use of "department dashboards," an internal management tool used to assess whether goals are being met.

Wu explained that each item in the plan is assigned to a department and "would be an item on their dashboard that we’ll assess on a monthly or quarterly basis to see whether or not they accomplished what they said they were going to accomplish."

A cross-sectional steering committee, including District administrators, teachers, principals, and taskforce co-chairs, put the plan together. Taskforce documents are on the District website, www.philasd.org, and Wu said the public will receive updates annually.