A partnership with the Acosta Educational Partnership group (AEP) — an organization that would provide guidance on implementing an ethnic studies program for K-12 grade, and professional development on unconscious bias and equity — is in the works for the Healdsburg Unified School District this year.
“At our last board meeting we talked about how the central component of our work as a school district needs to remain on equity,” said Healdsburg Unified School District (HUSD) Director of Curriculum and Instruction Erin Fender. “We’ve had quite a bit of work in terms of supporting a more equitable school system and breaking down some of the systemic racism and barriers that exist, but we know we have more work to do.”
At the district’s most recent school board meeting on Sept. 16, Fender said the district has an equity task force and has created a single elementary school program, but now the equity work will shift to a focus on curriculum and learning.
“The work now is in the education and we’ve talked about the importance of having an ethnic studies lens on all of our K-12 curriculum,” she said.
That’s where the AEP group comes in. AEP is led by equity and ethnic studies experts Dr. Curtis Acosta and Carlos Hagedorn.
According to the agenda item report, “Dr. Acosta is a professor at the University of Arizona but is from the Bay Area and taught high school history and ethnic studies in California before moving into the college system. Hagedorn is based in Napa and has worked in Napa County through the Legacy Youth Project to support equity and student leadership through a cultural responsive lens.”
The district was first introduced to the AEP when HUSD Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel was introduced to Acosta at a summer webinar on school equity with Corazón Healdsburg. Acosta was also the keynote speaker for the district’s virtual kick off day in August.
“We believe they are the logical next step for us in our equity work and they are the right people to do it. We are really excited about it,” Vanden Heuvel said of the group.
Locally, AEP has worked with the Santa Rosa City School District in establishing an ethnic studies lens for their curriculum and Fender said HUSD has heard good things about the Acosta group from Santa Rosa.
Bringing AEP to Healdsburg
According to Fender, there is a financial commitment to fundraise for this equity effort from Corazón Healdsburg and there will likely be additional support from the Healdsburg Education Foundation (HEF).
Since this is still in the works between the two organizations the contract with Acosta will be approved by the school board at a later date.
“This is a proposal we have discussed with our friends at Corazon Healdsburg and with HEF. All organizations are ready to say, ‘Yep, let’s do this together,’ but we wanted to share this proposal with you,” Fender said.
The Acosta proposal includes:
● Plans for work with the AEP ethnic studies institute for teachers where teachers would work on practicing ethnic studies pedagogy.
● Custom collaboration with the Marce Becerra Academy, the high school credit recovery program.
● Culturally responsive, sustaining and humanizing professional development days for teachers including help with lesson planning, community projects and policy.
● Guidance and consultation services in ethnic studies curriculum development.
● Quarterly ethnic studies check ins.
Costs for each of the services vary but range from $250 to $6,000. See the PDF on the sidebar to explore all of the details of the proposal.
Trustee Judy Velasquez and School Board Vice President Aracely Romo-Flores suggested bringing Acosta and Hagedorn in for a presentation or a study session with the board in order to get a better understanding of the scope of the proposed work.
Romo-Flores pointed out that their equity work should be grounded in evidence and she asked how the district would measure the success of it.
“I’m not clear on the outcomes. What do we expect to see as a result of this work? For me the true equity work is when you do not have a disparity in learning outcomes, economic outcomes, all of that other stuff that makes up a community,” Romo-Flores said.
Trustees agreed that a presentation from Acosta would be a good next step.
“I think this work is vitally important,” Trustee Mike Potmesil said.
Fender pointed out that this equity work will take time and that it will likely be a multi-year process.
“This is a multi-year project, things will go slow, but we have some good guidance and notes here,” Fender said, noting that she will have a meeting with the Acosta group next week to discuss next steps.