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Does Downingtown Area School District Rated #20 in the United States Really Need an Equity Officer?

Downingtown Area School District (DASD) has been a pillar of excellence in public education, here in Chester County. known for it’s academic gem the STEM Academy with its’ 100% graduation rate, and Downingtown East and West with graduations rates of 97% and 96% respectively with high levels of reading and math proficiency. We are proud of Downingtown Schools and what they have achieved in reaching such superior quality, so why would they at this time considering such strong academic performance and low occurrence of adverse events seek to implement a controversial position of Equity Officer at this time?

Why does DASD need an Equity Officer here in our suburban community with no history of adverse events, and a generously staffed school with teachers, counselors and crisis intervention specialists? We are questioning the motives and goals of this move – Why now and what’s in it for the school?

As cited by Rebecca Britton, DASD School Board Director, her “Hopes” for the Equity Officer position are:

We ask, what do DASD residents and taxpayers think of this position? Is this position really needed? What are the educational gaps? Where do they lie? What are the statistics? What supports our students needing a “Justice toolkit?” Is this something parents and taxpayers are interested in supporting? Do they want their kids to have them? Who asked?

Our committee raises these questions and others in the interest of understanding the need for this position supported by the business case and the numbers. Generally speaking, we do know that public schools and higher education, continue to fuel anti-American sentiment through its hesitance to teach American History and relay their subjective presentation of facts lacking context of events leading to the founding and development of our nation. In doing so, public schools are taking the liberty of rearing of our kids – teaching them values and ways of thinking they deem fitting according to their vision without considering that they are overstepping their bounds into the domain of our families.

Historically, the Equity Officer 's position has led to deep divisions in other school districts and harm to outcomes and lowered test scores. Schools lose focus on their mission of education fundamentals, shifting their focus on leftist ideology. The DASD School Board’s call to provide students with [Social] Justice Toolkits for their lives and learn Equity through age-appropriate frameworks strongly insinuates that this Equity Officer will have political overtones actively pursuing social change in our schools. It also indicates training students to act and think via the lens of politics - Equity vs. learning to apply independent critical thinking skills. Schools have NO place inserting themselves into matters of personal beliefs, free speech, and family values.

We must actively guard against both the real or perceived reality that our schools are no longer a place that independent thought and free speech are accepted and welcome, thereby undermining community trust.

As parents, we know that learning starts in the home and that the nuclear family is the community center, not the schools. It is NOT the school's place to insert themselves into our family values and communication. It is our responsibility and right to raise our children.

Unanswered Questions - What We Don’t Know About the Position

We have yet to learn - What is Equity? Does DASD have an Equity Problem? And, will an Equity Officer, another Administrator, be able to fix these problems? What is an Equity Officer / Director? The School Board does not know, which means nobody knows. The Pennsylvania Board of Education Association’s Equity Action plan requires a School Board to “define equity” and “analyze data” as two of its first three steps. The DASD has skipped both these steps to hire an Equity Officer to fix a problem that they cannot define and achieve metrics they do not know.

When asked, Board members have been incapable of defining how Equity is defined and applied in DASD. Rebecca Britton, School Board Director, responded with, “We are taking the model and redefining equity, for ourselves, in a way that is appropriate for our community.” They cannot define Equity, yet they are ready to hire an Equity Officer at an undefined cost to our community during a time of great economic challenge due to the Governor shutting down PA due to COVID “crisis.” What is happening here, is not responsible governance nor a wise business decision as there are many unanswered questions, including:

1) What is the precise definition of "equity" for this position?

2) Where does inequality currently exist that we are trying to solve?

3) If this inequity exists, why is the administration not addressing them? What is in the way?

Through lack of definition of Equity and avoidance of defining Equity yet planning to implement this powerful new Administrative position allows for control in our schools without our, the citizenry having a voice through our democratic process. What is clear, however, is that equality is not synonymous with equity. Equal access to resources based on ability and need does not equate to Equity.

According to the Pennsylvania School Board Association, Equality is treating all students the same and giving them the same supports. Nondiscrimination promotes equal opportunity and treatment for all students and staff based on local, state, or national identifiers such as race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or handicap/disability.”

Equity, however, is the just and fair distribution of resources based on each student’s needs. This is something at which Downingtown already excels. Our gifted and the coveted STEM Programs are comprised of rich diversity regarding race and sex, demonstrating that they are the meritocracy that we want in America. Our special needs students are well distributed across all conceivable metrics again, showing that the schools are prioritizing individual needs. Schools throughout Downingtown, including Lionville Elementary, are Title 1 students., providing additional funding to support those families with economic challenges.

Is Equity a problem for DASD?

Let's examine the metrics - We can’t, because they don’t exist.

As mentioned by all standard metrics, DASD is already excelling at this responsibility. When asked what metrics and data, points to a need that an Equity Officer can serve, our School Board members cannot speak to them, other than as per School Board Director’s initial comment concerning the death of George Floyd. We also ask if the hiring of an Equity Officer will qualify the school for additional funding or monies.

We tried to get input. Upon outreach to school administration - Dr. MacNeal chose not to respond to one of our resident’s email; Director Kring told one of our residents over the phone that “there are none” (he voted against the position) and School Board V.P. Britton said, “The person we bring on will be a guidepost to create the data, programs, educational changes, and policy.” Unfortunately, she is to be believed. The Equity Officer’s unspoken role will be to “create data” whether it exists or not and will point to the “created data” regardless of root cause analysis to drive transformation. If DASD requires an equity officer, we should all first ask the question of why? Since they can’t answer this simple question, then it is telling of their real objective – Promoting ideology.

What We Do Know – The Objective

DASD has a goal. Rebecca Britton clearly stated to us that the goal is to “allow every student and staff member to cultivate a basic tool kit at an age-appropriate level for addressing justice and equality in their lives.”

We suspect that The Equity Officer, and its task force is structured to introduce Social Justice into every facet of the school curriculum under the guise of Equity.

Allowing the implementation of this social justice intervention indicates a precipice that we are staring into - The Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) describes the desired end states, and the role of the equity officer is to ensure “equity is the foundation that frames every aspect of the educational system from curriculum adoption to professional development.”

We cannot allow ideology, systemic coercion to be forced upon our kids and the community. Our kids deserve exceptional education, not to have their education politicized! DASD is already excelling by all conceivable metrics towards equality and fairness.

Friends, family, and taxpayers of the Downingtown Area School District (DASD), we must act now to protect the quality of our kids/grandkids education, the unity of our community, the right of our families to instill our kids with our values and protect everyone from the massive tax increases which are sure to come.

We must bind together and have our voices heard we must demand:

1) The School Board and School District must first clearly define Equity.

2) Full transparency, providing the raw data, metrics, and a root cause analysis that inequity is a problem in DASD.

3) The DASD School Board must legislate and ensure that this position and the power that it will inevitably wield will not be subject to the injection of political philosophies. Equity Officer may not perpetuate any negative stereotypes against any race or culture, including American culture.


What You Can Do -NOW!

2) Write the school superintendent and your school board members to request:

a. They rethink the need for an equity officer until they have a clear definition of Equity, and metrics identified to show that DASD has an equity problem.

b. Require that the equity officer be unable to affect curriculum or teacher training without a vote by the Board.

c. Require that all equity officer recommendations be free from even the perception of politics.

d. Any potential curriculum changes do not negatively affect outcomes.

e. The emphasis that the school is supposed to be a unifying force in our community. This position has a high potential to be a divisive factor.

And, to remember, in the end, this very act of bringing ideology into our schools support our very rights to school choice - To use our tax money to educate our children free of social pressure, political ideology with a strict focus on academics.

Bringing collective minded thinking, political ideology, and bias into schools is why school choice is critical to our liberty! We have a right to think, speak, and act freely without threat or coercion.

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Aug 04, 2020

I personally reached out to the Jane Bertone, head of the school board, and to the superintendent's office after I heard about this a couple weeks ago. To the superintendent's credit, they were very responsive to me and I had the opportunity to speak with assistant superintendent Dr. Robert Reed. He was very accomodating with his time and spoke to me at length about this. I expressed concerns I had, and he was very helpful. I am not convinced we need a full-time employee for this position and after consideration, would still need more information from the district and the school board before I'm convinced this was a necessity for the district.

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