'An environment of unity': Milford schools discuss five-year goals

Ingrid Canady

Ingrid Canady

Contributed photo / SERC

MILFORD — Ingrid Canady felt she had to give the Milford Board of Education a standing ovation.

Canady, executive director for State Education Resource Center, was reviewing the board’s list of goals and commitments when she came to No. 5.

“We are committed to laying a foundation that fosters an environment of unity that addresses race, equity and social justice in a safe and supportive learning environment. It is essential to the progress of all people in our learning community that we take deliberate steps to make clear that people who have been historically marginalized are fully included and valued.”

The board presented a draft of its goals and commitments for the next five years. Canady had spent some time with the board going over its commitments, but specifically focused on race, equity, social justice and historical marginalization. Board members plan to discuss its goals and commitments at the next meeting.

“I looked at this and said what is it about this that really caught my attention,” Canady said. “You made a bold statement through this commitment and, as I said, I gave you a standing ovation.”

It also raised a few questions, Canady said. “Race, what is it? Equity, how do we define it? Social justice, what would we see when we see it? Deliberate, what is our intentional action? Historically, how do we go against the power of the norm?”

Board member Una Petroske said that when she thinks of equity, she thinks of it as removing barriers.

“Everyone gets the same foundation,” she said. She said it’s possible to be a socially just community, “but it will be a hard and intentional process.”

Canady said the board is accountable for three roles. The first is racial consciousness.

“A racially conscious leader is very aware of their own racial identity, it’s not about someone else’s racial identity, but self-racial identity,” she said.

The board’s second role is to orchestrate deliberate actions to achieve racial consciousness.

“How do we create a critical interruption, which means asking questions of everything that comes before the board?” she said.

The third role, having a vigilant mindset, directly follows the second role and includes deliberate action. Canady said this is the critical interrogation that follows the critical interruption, and that the rule of questioning everything applies to the third role as well.

Superitendent Anna Cutaia said the three aspects of being a board member may seem like a short list, “but they are quite heavy lifts.”

Cutaia said it would be a good idea to invite Canady back “to dig a little deeper.”

Some of the board’s other commitments include expanding and strengthening relationships within the Milford community; maintaining a system of structures and resources to ensure emotionally and physically safe and secure learning environments for all; attracting, recruiting and fostering a diverse community of talented professionals, and more.

The board’s goals are varied. Academically, the board affirmed that learners will be curious and challenge themselves and will comprehend, organize and analyze information to solve problems and articulate solutions.

Other goals are for students to engage in self-care to result in a healthy lifestyle, develop into global citizens who think and act beyond self towards service to others and their community, and to be imaginative and curious and challenge themselves to make, shape, and invent their learning experiences.