- Dr. Jan Vesely is superintendent of Kyrene School District.

- Dr. Jan Vesely is superintendent of Kyrene School District.

The core values of the Kyrene

Strategic Plan 2022 are clear:

• Kids. All students are at the center of our work.

• Integrity. We consistently use honesty and respect to support the well-being of our students and staff.

• Dedication. We are committed to fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability and communication to achieve our shared vision and mission.

• Strength. We pride ourselves in creating and maintaining strong, engaging and compassionate relationships amongst students, staff and community.

It really is all about kids. The needs of ALL Kyrene students are our utmost priority. That is why Kyrene School District has made a commitment to creating and nurturing a culture of equity and inclusion for our diverse community.

For the past year, we have been involved in a process of analyzing data to identify gaps in achievement, discipline and opportunity.

We have listened to the voices of our parents, community members, students and staff, and we have looked at the experiences of other districts, all with the goal of creating a framework for equity for Kyrene that will result in sustainable and meaningful change.

Two years ago, we began laying the foundation for our equity work by improving instructional support for students.

In the 2017-18 school year, district-level positions were reduced in order to hire academic interventionists on every single campus, to provide direct instructional support services to students.

Kyrene also introduced multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), a blueprint for school improvement that focuses on structures to serve both academic and non-academic needs of students.

Additionally, we rolled out a new middle school design focused on responsive instruction and student agency. This included the addition of an advisory period to provide social-emotional lessons and the addition of counselors/social workers to support student needs.

We are now focusing on discipline gaps, recently revising our discipline matrix, in collaboration with our legal team, to ensure all children are treated fairly, through restorative justice opportunities.

The next layer of equity work is being incorporated into our elementary design, which will include the development of social-emotional curriculum and additional school counselors in grades K-5.

Social-emotional learning at a young age encourages empathy and begins teaching children to treat peers with respect.

The task of creating an equity framework is not easy. Kyrene has recently retained the services of a professional consulting firm, Corwin, to help build systems of support that identify and eliminate hate, bias and bigotry.

Services will include professional development for staff, support for culturally relevant teaching strategies, and the development of practices for attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds.

I want to personally invite the Kyrene community to attend an upcoming summit on diversity, hosted by members of the Community/Superintendent Council.

The summit, “Kyrene Community Voices – A Conversation about Equity and Inclusion,” will be held at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School on 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 27.

There is no cost to attend, and free childcare will be provided. Information on registration can be found at kyrene.org.

Corwin’s belief statement reads, in part, “We believe in the fierce urgency of now.” Kyrene shares that sense of urgency. We have no tolerance for any child being mistreated or feeling excluded on the basis of race, gender, income or ability.

Lasting improvement in the areas of equity and inclusion takes time, but we, here at Kyrene, are committed to ensuring that we realize our vision of all students achieving at their maximum potential to become problem-solvers, creators and visionaries of tomorrow.

- Dr. Jan Vesely is superintendent of Kyrene School District.

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