How will Palm Beach County Schools turn their equity statement into action?

Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 18:56:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — How will Palm Beach County Schools turn their new equity statement into action? That’s a question that remains weeks after a nationally talked-about debate between board members and parents.

For one school board member — the discussion isn’t over — and only on WPTV she explains why she wants to see fewer politics and more representation brought to the chambers.

Graduation parades bring traffic to a halt in a Riviera Beach neighborhood, but Katreena Williams isn’t celebrating, yet.

”My son needs to be ready to get into college,” Williams said.

As the parent of a Black eighth-grade student, she admits she’s ready for the first time to attend a school board meeting, motivated by the district’s new equity statement and findings.

”It’s past the time to address the racial inequity,” Williams said. “In the past, many parents who look like me didn’t believe we were being heard. We feel validated now.”

That’s one opinion. At a May 26 equity workshop opinions varied.

“We can have protests — but the chamber is not the place for that kind of commentary,” said Alexandria Ayala, Palm Beach County Schools District 2 school board member. “Our politics — it’s driving a wedge between us that I have never seen in my career.”

Ayala actually represents the district she too went to school in but she says this isn’t the district she knew. She now wants to see more parents of color become more engaged and more willing to speak up about the challenges their kids face today.

“How we can serve a district that’s the 10th largest in the country and nearly 80-percent of our students are not White. How are we including them and how are we making them be supported through their academic progress,” Ayala said.

And Ayala said students are falling behind and it’s affecting the county more than people realize.

“There is not one more seat in the private schools in this county — that’s where we’re at,” she said. “And two: If we do not get the collective success of our public school system up I cannot attract any more companies, corporations, start-ups, and economic drivers to this county. So it’s a problem.”

Ayala says data is “wildly” disproportionate among students when it comes to academic courses, access to choice programs, and suspensions to name a few. those were motivators behind the equity statement. The equity statement would also commit to enacting hiring policies to ensure more representation in school leadership.

”Your assistant principals, your principals, your behavioral health specialists,” she said.

The board will work on the implementation of the policy over the summer and into next year. Ayala calls it a pathway to get to solutions.

Learn more about the equity statement, here.