The Malden Public Schools administration held two separate Virtual Diversity and Equity meetings in the months of November and December. With hopes of engaging the community in the work towards equity, the administration provided information to attendees over the steps in moving forward.
Laryssa Doherty, the Assistant superintendent of Diversity & Equity, explained how the goal of the community meeting was to gather and assess information from the community in order to present where the city is in their process of learning.
For the month of November, the meeting was to present ideas and plans to attendees. In December, “it was a little bit more of a check in of what we've worked on,” said Doherty. “We want to make sure that we're hearing from everyone, before we take bold action on anything so we're not moving so fast, but voices are lost in that communication.”
She expressed that it is not necessarily that the city is missing something, but rather it gives an opportunity to hear more in depth about quickly moving on with ideas that have been already discussed.
During the meeting, the administration presented a timeline from October 2021 through August 2022 that consisted of the work that the city plans on implementing. This includes: defining equity for the district, presenting drafts to the school committee and adopting all handbooks and code of conduct.
With one of the very first steps being to define equity, Doherty mentioned how there will be four committees, each one working on the four themes provided by the meetings: the Equity Team, Code of Conduct, Student Handbook and Caregiver Handbook. Each committee consisting of parents, caregivers and students. For the equity team specifically, it would be to establish a shared definition of what equity is and then supporting that aspect of the equity audit through a third party. As a result, Doherty shared that the administration is waiting for the state to release the funding in hopes of announcing the proposal.
Doherty wishes that by April vacation, the administration and the committees will have all of the components in a place where it can be voted upon by the school committee. And then in June, there will be new policies set in place for the upcoming school year.
MHS alumni, Billy Zeng, was one of the attendees in the meeting. Having been consistently involved in community engagement, Zeng attended the meeting to learn more about what the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent were doing towards this topic. “I have not seen this work being done in Malden before and I thought it was wonderful how they decided to have community meetings to engage community members,” he said. Moreover, Zeng added that “I wanted to make sure that the work the Central Office was doing was meaningful and engaging in an effective way.”
He recounted Superintendent Ligia Noriega-Murphy saying that students would be reached out to directly and the student governments established across the middle schools would be represented.
In terms of what the city needs to work on with diversity and equity, Zeng strongly believes that both Malden and the administration “has lots of work ahead of themselves both within the school system and outside of the school system,” especially towards city government and the community. Zeng specifically noted the school system where he believes that more administrators need to examine closely the backgrounds of students whether that be race, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic to evaluate the service that they have available to students.
Now being a first-year college student, Zeng reflected back on his time at MHS where he thought about how the school could have provided him with a better college preparation experience. “COVID-19 has exacerbated the disparities that exist between different communities,” he continued on saying that “I feel strongly that MHS needs to take this into account and better serve their students, specifically with mental health services.” As a result, it would help in providing “a more equitable school environment where students can have a better school experience.”
To Zeng, his own definition of equity is a “set of conditions that allows all individuals in a society to reach their potential, dreams, and aspirations,” where it allows for “individuals to socially move upwards without being discriminated against by an oppressive system.”