We are so proud and inspired by our colleagues in Battle Creek, Michigan. NEP has supported the Battle Creek Vision for the past year as they have worked to take renewed action around creating equitable opportunities for all students in their community. This first joint school board meeting is an incredible culmination – and launch – of a new vision for equity in Battle Creek.
“By working together, leaders across the city are committing to ensuring every child in this community has access to a quality education regardless of their zip code. It is not acceptable to continue tolerating a ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ system of education. This is an exciting time for the families and students of Battle Creek.” – Kim Carter, Superintendent of Battle Creek Public Schools
Battle Creek, Mich. – The superintendents and board members of the four school districts serving Battle Creek students held their first joint school board session today at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as the first step in a collaborative effort to ensure all students in Battle Creek have access to an equitable, high-quality education.
Superintendents from Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS), Harper Creek Community Schools, Lakeview School District and Pennfield Schools called the historic meeting to build relationships across the districts and reflect on the BCVision College and Career Readiness education study, conducted by New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. During the joint school board session, the superintendents and board members talked about the shared fate for Battle Creek and suggested ways to further collaborate.
“By working together, leaders across the city are committing to ensuring every child in this community has access to a quality education regardless of their zip code. It is not acceptable to continue tolerating a ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ system of education. This is an exciting time for the families and students of Battle Creek,” said Kim Carter, superintendent of Battle Creek Public Schools. “This work requires the sustainability and success of each of the four districts. We recognize that the strength of each district – and of the city of Battle Creek – will come from collaborating and learning together, not competing with each other.”
The education study, which was released in January, found that policies have worsened racial and socioeconomic segregation in the area schools, resulting in declining resources and academic achievement at Battle Creek Public Schools.
“The study made very clear that the educational opportunities and the conditions for students to succeed are not experienced equitably in Battle Creek. This not only impacts our children, but our community as a whole,” said WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, who attended the meeting and has called upon the community to rally behind all Battle Creek children to ensure they achieve academic success. “If we target our efforts and resources where the needs are the greatest, then our community becomes stronger.”
Each superintendent said they are committed to collaborating to ensure equitable opportunities for all students in the greater Battle Creek area – regardless of which school or district they attend. They agreed to meet regularly to develop a strategy for the inter-district collaboration with support from the Center for Diversity and Innovation and the National Equity Project.
The group also announced a one-day learning session for school district leaders to participate in professional development training about educational equity. The goal is to promote learning about equity and cultural competence in all four districts.
“Although the work through BCVision has led us to this historic joint meeting, we are just starting to review the data to make decisions,” said Tim Everett, superintendent of Pennfield Schools. “The area superintendents, along with other stakeholders, will collaborate to identify and provide the support needed for each student to succeed.”
School leaders made the commitment to convene while attending the National Equity Project’s Leading for Equity Institute in Chicago in late March. Their participation in that summit was prompted by the NYU education study. The nine-person Battle Creek team attending the institute included Carter; Art McClenney, BCPS School Board president; Dave Peterson, superintendent of the Lakeview School District; Kathleen Moore, Lakeview School Board member; Rob Ridgeway, superintendent of Harper Creek Community Schools; Lisa Hubbard, Harper Creek School Board member; Barry Duckham, principal of Pennfield High School; Abby Green, Pennfield School Board member; and Jorge Zeballos, executive director for the Center for Diversity and Innovation.
“The NYU study highlighted a strong need to provide equitable educational opportunities for Battle Creek’s most vulnerable students,” said Ridgeway. “All four public school districts in the Battle Creek area have vulnerable students and coming together to help them will increase the educational outcomes for all.”
While the study also pointed to some positive news – access to early childhood education and graduation rates meet or exceed national averages throughout Battle Creek – results also showed the Battle Creek education system at large is failing many of its students. Conversations about racial and economic equity in education have been supported through BCVision, which has made the city’s education system and a commitment to equity the center of its strategy for revitalizing the city of Battle Creek.
“When I’m at the YMCA, Meijer, Menards or Taco Bell, I see Bearcat, Panther, Beaver and Spartan sweatshirts. We really are one community,” said Peterson. “It only makes sense to start acting like one community. By addressing our issues collaboratively, the entire Battle Creek area will thrive. We have to persevere and make this work successful.”
BC Vision is a community-driven movement for change focused on creating a place where we can all live, work and play. We envision a thriving community for all people, where there is equitable opportunity for residents to have the income, education and resources they need to be successful. There are many ways to get involved in BC Vision. Whatever your level of commitment, we have a place for you. To learn more, visit battlecreekvision.com. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (269) 719-8888. You can also follow BC Vision on Facebook at facebook.com/BattleCreekVision or Twitter: @BCVision.
Read More: School boards talk about equity, shared services