The Courage Required to Lead an Equity Agenda
By Stacey Pusey
While equity requires vision from its leaders, it also requires courage. During the edWebinar, “Leading for Equity: Courage to Lead with an Equity Agenda,” hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, Dr. Khalid Mumin, Superintendent of Reading School District (PA), and Marlon Styles, Superintendent of Middletown City Schools (OH), discussed the challenges they faced and the tough decisions they made to keep their equity agenda moving forward.
- Equity sometimes requires unequal supports for students. While the goal is the same outcome for all students—graduation—the effort to get each student there will look different. Instead of trying to give each student the exact same experience and expect them all to graduate, leaders need to figure out what each student needs to complete their educational goals.
- Equity agendas require constant revision. Today’s actions might focus on internet access at home and the impact of social justice movements, but new equity challenges could arrive tomorrow. Leaders must be willing to go back to their boards, back to their administrative teams, and update their plans and budgets based on the current needs of their students and staff.
- Striving for equity means tossing a lot of old hiring practices. If the goal is to have a teaching staff that not only reflects the student population, but also understands the students’ needs, then posting job openings and choosing candidates from a generic pile won’t work. Now, leaders need to hire based on their equity goals—for all positions—and how candidates will fit into the desired culture and student experience. This can also result in schools forging their own pathways for teaching licenses and administrative positions.
- A strong equity agenda can also make the student code of conduct obsolete. Most student codes are punitive and only focus on dealing with adverse behavior after the fact. Many students won’t read them because they are just lists of what not to do. Both presenters said they upended the system at their schools by first trying to understand where these behaviors were coming from and second, by trying to work with students before they exhibit those behaviors. This requires schools to invest in student and family liaisons and to be active participants in all students’ educations.
- Pursuing equity requires constant professional development for all staff. Equity doesn’t end in the classroom—it’s a school- and district-wide culture. The work never stops. Schools must continually invest in training, coaching, and personnel so they can take the equity agenda from words to action. Staff may think they have other important issues to focus on, but in order to erase decades of disparity, equity education needs to be constant at all levels.
This edWeb broadcast was hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, providing premier professional learning for educational leaders.
This article was modified and published by eSchool News.
About the Presenters
Dr. Khalid N. Mumin
For the last 20 years, Dr. Khalid N. Mumin has served in various capacities as a teacher, dean of students, principal and central administrator. Dr. Mumin earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Education in Teaching & Curriculum from Pennsylvania State University, a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from Shippensburg University, and an Associate of Arts in English from Northeastern Christian Junior College.
The strength in Dr. Mumin’s leadership revolves around being a student-centered educator, who has a vision of success for all students and a belief that building positive relationships through cultural competencies is paramount in promoting student success. Dr. Mumin is a change agent and is committed to promoting and sustaining student achievement, equity and access to educational programming for all students, as well as creating plans that are fiscally responsible. He maintains a keen focus on fostering collaboration with stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, administrators, community, public officials, business partners, and higher education. His goal is that all of these groups will come together on the same accord to function as a complete community of learners focused on student success and student access to college and career opportunities. Dr. Khalid Mumin is the 2021 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year.
In the fall of 2017, Marlon Styles became the proud Superintendent of Middletown City School District. The four years prior, he served as the Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction for Lakota Schools. His affinity for education has ignited a fiery passion to close the equity gap for all students. He prides himself on finding the good in every person. Mr. Styles challenges others to rise up to strengthen the #MiddieRising culture. Mr. Styles states, “My affinity for education has ignited a fiery passion to close the equity and access gaps that affect schools. I am firmly devoted to finding innovative ways to integrate technology to transform learning experiences that will inspire students.” Marlon earned an undergraduate degree from Thomas More College, and a Master’s degree from University of Cincinnati.
About the Host
Dr. Amy Sichel is a nationally recognized educational leader and has served as superintendent of the Abington School District in Abington, PA since 2001 and retired after 18 years of service. She served the district for 42 years as the assistant superintendent, director of pupil services, school psychologist and counselor. Dr. Sichel is a past president of AASA and PASA as well as being named a PA Superintendent of the Year. She was proud to have the opportunity to be recognized nationally for the district’s work in narrowing achievement gaps for historically under-represented students. For this work, she has co-authored a chapter in a textbook by Mr. Alan Blankstein and Dr. Pedro Noguera, entitled Excellence Through Equity: Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement for Every Student.
Dr. Sichel is now a repurposed superintendent as Lead Superintendent in the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program®. She has worked with AASA’s Leadership Network and the Certification program since the inception with curriculum development and as a mentor. AASA’s National Superintendent Certification Program has a rigorous and engaging curriculum, where superintendents in their beginning years of service and those that want to refresh their skill set, form as a cohort of critical professional friends and engage in leadership development. This work is so important for superintendents as they strive to educate America’s children to be career and college ready. With years of experience in education, Dr. Sichel strives to offer premier professional learning opportunities to superintendents and educational leaders with AASA’s Leadership Network.
Join the Community
Leading for Equity is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net for school and district leaders who face many challenges leading schools and driving school improvement for all students, especially now with COVID-19.
The AASA Leadership Network drives superintendent success, innovation and growth, shaping the future of public education while preparing students for what’s next. We are the largest, most diverse network of superintendents in America. Passionate and committed, we connect educational leaders to the professional learning, leadership development, relationships and partnerships they need to ensure a long career of impact.
Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Stacey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. Stacey is working with edWeb.net as a marketing communications advisor and writer.