Director for Equity: First 100 Days

"I began my journey with the Shorewood School District full of hope and optimism for the ways I would grow into this newly created position and grow with the District. In my interviews, I had an opportunity to have some honest conversations with community members, teachers, parents, and administration. In those conversations, I talked about my experiences as an educator and leader for equity. I was not shy about sharing my vision, reservations, and commitment to embracing this role and the work I believed it would entail.
The most important aspect of my first 100 days with the District was getting to know the lay of the land and building relationships with parents, students, community members, faculty, board members, alumni, eager supporters, and those who had skepticism about the work I’d be leading. I took a few different approaches to building relationships and learning about the district. Most often, I found ways to work alongside teachers and teams to share ideas about curriculum, problem solve to support students who were struggling, observe many inspirational classroom lessons, and create opportunities to learn about the various ways students, staff and families experience their belonging in the District. I’ve learned so much and am excited to continue applying what I’m learning as I lead our equity work.
To truly get a sense of what we are doing well as a district and where we need to grow, I have also been deliberate about building relationships with students. I attended student-led groups and clubs, usually hosted during students’ lunch period throughout each week. Occasionally, some student groups meet after school and I’ve been able to talk with students and even lead activities in those spaces as well. Students from kindergarten through twelfth grade have seen me in their classrooms, hallways and lunch rooms. It is important to me that all students see and trust me as an ally, role model and familiar face at each school.
In addition to the exciting part of building relationships, I got right to work on other important items like co-planning and co-facilitating district wide professional development. We are fortunate to have an extremely talented team of educators who are all at various places on their educational and equity journey. My approach to building teacher and leader capacity has been through listening, questioning, motivating, and creating opportunities to critically reflect on the impact of our practices. In a few instances, I entered those conversations with strategies in hand. Most often, I entered those conversations with the intent of talking and learning together for the purposes of building our awareness and capacity. As a leader, I believe a healthy blend of both approaches is the way we build and sustain the type of capacity it will take to eliminate inequities and help all students grow toward their potential. I am grateful for the openness the District has shown to my style for supporting capacity building efforts through District-wide professional development, my work with content area teams at each school, my collaboration with deans, principals, and directors, and one on one collaborations with teachers and support staff throughout the District. My position is designed to lead and build capacity through collaboration and I will maintain my commitment to serve and collaborate with everyone in the district so that we can reach our goals.
Many people around Milwaukee county and throughout the state have taken interest in our equity work. As often as I can and in as many ways as possible, I am sharing the good news about the work we are doing as a district on behalf of all students. In October, I had an opportunity to represent our commitment to educational equity at forums hosted at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh and the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. At each event, I was proud to talk about our district’s answer to the moral call for equity and the courage our faculty has demonstrated to lean into this difficult but rewarding work.
Lastly I’d like to highlight the work we have started with our 2020-2025 district strategic planning. I invite all students, parents, faculty, and community members work with us and provide input at our monthly strategic planning sessions. Collaboratively leading this processes with Dr. Davis and ensuring input from a range of stakeholders is among my top priorities. It is our belief that achieving and sustaining equitable outcomes requires systems level designs for equity and strategic investments in staff and students. Over the next 100 days, I will continue to serve alongside administration, teachers, parents, students, and community members to provide leadership in moving our strategic planning forward. The journey forward as we recalibrate our district strategic plan will be a heavy lift and I’m honored to do this work with such an amazing community."
sam coleman
Sam Coleman
Director for Equity, Shorewood Schools