Perry Local Schools Launches Diversity Equity & Inclusion Committee

The Perry Local School District is currently celebrating Black History Month, with events and curriculum focusing on the heritage and history of African Americans in U.S. history. The planning for the month’s events began this past summer when PLSD implemented a Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) District Committee to help promote unity within their schools. It wasn’t just teachers and staff coming up with ideas for Black History Month, Perry High School students were also involved in the planning, helping plan projects and generate new ideas. This involvement was something that K-6 Virtual Academy Principal and DEI committee member, DaNita Berry said was an important part of the preparation. “We want to learn with the student body,” Berry said. “We don’t want to come across as being the experts. We wanted it to be an opportunity for students to engage with their peers and their teachers. They wanted to have the opportunity to talk in smaller groups, believing their peers would open up better with more intimate conversations.” Because of this collaboration, the district’s schools are utilizing interesting projects and lessons for students, including a theme for each week in the month of February. During the first week, students focused on “The Arts,” recognizing many of the great writers, painters, musicians and other artists whose contributions have helped shape our nation’s cultural identity. Week Two centered on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and the influence of so many African American scientists and educators. For Week Three, Perry students are focusing on black athletes and the positive impact they have on American culture and social change. To close out the month, students will focus on the theme of “Where do we go from here,” something Perry High School Associate Principal and DEI committee member, Catrina Burwell said is an important way of prolonging the recognition of African Americans in our country. “Right now, we are focused on Black History Month,” she said. “But we want to build on that throughout the year and continuously have those conversations of inclusion, and make sure every person of every color and background is acknowledged. We really want to have thoughtful conversations and reflections. Our goal is to have a community, not just a district, that is inclusive.” To help facilitate lessons, PLSD is utilizing “Mirrors and Windows,” a website set up by Perry teachers as a way of supplementing stories into the lesson plans. The idea stems from “relational scholar” Emily Style’s philosophy of utilizing stories like mirrors reflecting who we are as a way of helping strengthen our own identity, while also using stories as windows into other cultures and philosophies. On the “Mirrors and Windows” site, students and families can watch videos of popular books being read aloud while also engaging with discussion questions about each book.