The Fort Thomas Independent Schools is committed to establishing "Inclusive Excellence" throughout the district as strategy for targeting supports, programming, and learning/development in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). An Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition was enacted to bring together stakeholders to collaborate to analyze relevant data, facilitate critical conversations, and engage in research and development for the purpose of constructing an Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan for district-wide implementation. We welcome and encourage involvement and participation as we continue to make progress towards providing an exceptional learning experience for our students in Fort Thomas.
Inclusive Excellence represents the forward-thinking effort to inspire all students to pursue lifelong learning and become productive members of a global community. Inclusive Excellence is the recognition that a school district's ability to successfully advance its mission is dependent on how fully it values, engages, and includes the rich traditions and diversity of all students, staff, administrators, alumni, and community members. In an effort to realize our mission of providing engaging and challenging learning experiences which foster creativity, curiosity and innovation, the purpose of Inclusive Excellence is three-fold: (1)ensure FTIS schools are safe spaces where all learners are seen, valued, cared for and respected as their full selves; (2)support the entire FTIS staff in building the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare students for a dynamic world; and, (3)celebrate diversity, embrace equity, and commit to living out authentic inclusion within the FTIS community.
Our District is focused on the most developmentally appropriate and educationally relevant practices with students regarding these efforts. Our primary interests lie in promoting empathy in students, developing a global perspective, treating others with compassion and kindness, and curating leadership skills - all of which should respect one another's individual differences and value those dissimilar characteristics. Specifically, we are focused on social emotional learning. This means to provide our students with knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and achieve personal and collective goals. Our goal would be for students in Fort Thomas to show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. We are not addressing any aspects of race-based, gender-based, or sexuality-based education.
The Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition has been meeting since November 2019 to establish a direction and a plan to address diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools. There is a large assemblage of district administrators, school administrators, school counselors, teachers, classified staff, parents, students, and community members that have teamed up on this work. We collaboratively developed a 3-year Strategic Plan. Our significant goals are to develop culturally competent and multi-ethnically aware students and faculty; to promote equity and inclusion; and, to increase the ethnic and racial diversity of faculty and staff. The Guiding Coalition is currently partnering with professional consultants to aid us in effectively reaching these goals. Our administrators, faculty, and staff have requested support with our professional learning needs, the acquisition of resources, and guidance on fulfilling short-term objectives. We are not applying any programming to address racial, gender, or sexuality-based issues (we are not focused on those concepts with students); instead, our schools are active in their implementation of social emotional learning programming, which is the foundation for our continued work. We have multiple professional consultation partnerships for the purpose of providing education and training to our faculty on student support issues and the promotion of inclusivity from multiple perspectives. We seek out expertise from professionals to address a very specific professional development need for our administrators, teachers, and staff. With their knowledge and experience in certain areas related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have relied on these professionals to provide information, guidance, and resources to the adults in our organization so that we are equipped to support all students and to effectively manage sensitive situations in our schools.
We are purposefully implementing a strategic plan that includes considerations for educational equity because our schools are committed to making sure every student has the support they need to be successful. Our commitment is to put systems in place to ensure that every student in Fort Thomas has an equal chance for success. Each individual child that comprises our student population is important, and we are challenging ourselves to personalize our students' learning and to provide individualized learning opportunities. These range from academic to social emotional in content. This continues to contribute to our district being the best in the state and aligns with federal and state laws, improvement priorities as defined by state and local data, and our ethical and moral responsibility that all students grow under our tutelage. Our increasingly diverse student population (e.g., English Learners, Students with Disabilities, Gifted and Talented Students, Students with Accommodation Needs, and more) substantiate our desire to promote equity in our schools. FTIS is also taking direction from the Kentucky Department of Education, which expects all Kentucky school districts to embrace equity, achievement, collaboration, and integrity at all levels and in all aspects of education. This means that educational experiences, practices, policies and resources are accessed by all in ways that provide all students, especially those from underrepresented groups, with meaningful participation in the full curriculum and promotes successful outcomes. Students must also have equitable access to highly effective, experienced educators who are culturally competent and able to reach each student.
The Guiding Coalition has instituted a DEI Statement. This statement embodies the commitment that we've made to progressing in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We aim to be intentional in providing relevant learning experiences that will enable our students to thrive within a diverse and globally minded society. A subcommittee is researching and developing appropriate policy to present to the board of education. We are seeking to address educational equity and the demonstration of a commitment to racial equity. Our goal is for policy to address how attention to diversity will be included in different areas across the District. Another core component of the Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan is the establishment and implementation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Council. While the Guiding Coalition shall continue to provide the visioning and grassroots efforts towards satisfaction of our strategic plan, this council will oversee the work, monitor those efforts, evaluate our current conditions, and provide direction on future planning. Our Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition is an open membership opportunity and new committee members are welcomed.
Furthermore, our strategic plan includes programmatic changes that will impact all facets of our system. These include adjustments to training and reference curricula, character education in schools, youth mental health, student behavior and discipline, family and community engagement, student voice, human resources, and public relations. Although this is a 3-year plan and we have much more growth and development to demonstrate, there are activities currently in place that we've instituted to fulfill our commitments. Our teams have revised curricula for new teachers and substitute teachers to include training on DEI; our annual professional development programming has been modified to include DEI learning; social emotional learning and strengths finding measures are in place at certain grade levels; we've provided district-wide youth mental health training for faculty and staff; a subcommittee is working on actionable plans for family and community engagement opportunities; equity, inclusion, and cultural competence are being addressed through book acquisition for students; a subcommittee is developing specific and intentional efforts with minority recruitment; and, our teams are being especially mindful with the inclusion of underrepresented student groups in marketing and in print materials. Even though these are great steps in making forward progress, we recognize that further work is required to influence systemic change within the District.
For more information, please contact:
Alesha Meyn, Human Resources Coordinator
Bill Bradford, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Jamee Flaherty, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services
Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition Roster
Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition Meeting Dates
DEI Advisory Council Members
Kentucky Department of Education (KDE):
KDE Equity in Education Webpage