Capistrano Unified cultural proficiency task force works to increase learning outcomes for all students

By Chelsea Turner

Last fall, Capistrano Unified School District established a Cultural Proficiency Task Force to facilitate systemic change and increase learning outcomes for all students. Its mission is to ensure an inclusive environment where students, staff, and the community value diversity. 

Members include the Superintendent, executive cabinet, certificated and classified staff, administrators, the student advisor to the Board of Trustees, high school student representatives, and parent representatives. 

Task force meetings held last school year focused on analyzing district data for equity gaps and gathering input for the development of a cultural proficiency plan. The plan is expected to be finalized and implemented this school year. 

“I am incredibly proud of this team and this work,” said Susan Holliday, Chief Administrative Officer. “This comprehensive plan is the result of the voices and input of our Board of Trustees, staff, parents and most importantly our students. We look forward to truly implementing the mission of this critical work.”

In early November, the Board of Trustees held a workshop to review a draft of the plan which focuses on reducing harassment on campus, suspension rates, and chronic absenteeism. Goals also focus on increasing cultural proficiency, diverse staff, a-g completion rates, and Advanced Placement course enrollment. 

Professional learning is embedded throughout the plan as a key component and will be provided for staff throughout the year. 

The 2019-20 school year focused on staff training for the district’s leadership team in a variety of forms including a book study, an extensive certification course, school partnerships with community-based organizations, and training for district administrators.

Staff members also partnered with the district’s teachers union to implement a five-part after school series called Understanding Unconscious Bias. The series will cover unconscious bias, stereotypes and their impact, understanding privilege, strategies for responding to bias on campus, and creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment. 

Upcoming professional learning opportunities for district staff will focus on trauma-informed practices, self-awareness, mindfulness, signature social emotional learning (SEL) practices to build relationships, implicit bias and cultural proficiency. These core competencies are aligned with the major student competencies that will be taught via self-paced lessons for students district-wide. The core competencies include emotion regulation, empathy, skills for learning, and bully prevention. 

Since parents and guardians play such an important role, the district will also offer various workshops for parents on self-awareness, self management, and anxiety. 

A final plan will be brought forward to the Board of Trustees for approval at the December 16, 2020 Board meeting. 

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