School Board eliminates the word, 'Equity', in Strategic Plan draft

Goal No. 2 in the plan will now be titled 'Student Support,' but the wording in the goal itself will not change.

School Board member Jill Woolbright. File photo.
School Board member Jill Woolbright. File photo.
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“Equity” had been the title for Goal No. 2 of the new Strategic Plan that the Flagler County school district has been in the process of drafting.

The goal won’t change. But the title will.

The School Board agreed to change the goal’s title from “Equity” to “Student Support.”

At an Oct. 19 workshop, School Board member Jill Woolbright said a “large constituency group” objected to the word equity, primarily as it is used among the “guiding principles” in the district’s rezoning process. Woolbright also noted that it was a goal title in the draft for the Strategic Plan.

At the School Board’s Nov. 2 workshop, Superintendent Cathy Mittlestadt offered the alternative title for Goal No. 2, based on the previous discussion and public comments during School Board meetings.

“What it means is to be deliberate with our resources to be sure that every student has an opportunity to be successful,” Mittelstadt said. “I heard some dialogue among the board, and we had it in public comments. I want to make sure we’re landing where we need to land. It does not change where we need to go and what we need to do by amending the title. But the intent by district staff … is because we feel Flagler Schools has certain subgroups within our demographic where our gaps have just not closed, and we wanted to be so intentional on how we move our work forward.”

Woolbright said because of the perception of the word, “whether misunderstood or not,” there is still a beef, and she was in favor of changing the title.

“We are here to represent all our constituents,” she said.

“It’s always the context,” board member Janet McDonald said, noting equity “has become such an inflammatory word.”

Board member Cheryl Massaro said she did not have a problem changing the title, giving the new title a majority of support from the board.

“Equity is such a misinterpreted phrase. It fits whatever people want it to fit.”

CHERYL MASSARO, School Baord member

“Equity is such a misinterpreted phrase. It fits whatever people want it to fit,” Massaro said. “Probably, a change of language will make life much easier and more understandable to our families and that’s our goal.”

But board member Colleen Conklin called the change “shameful.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation,” Conklin said. “We are now going to remove a key term from our Strategic Plan because we have a political group that is not happy with the use of the term, “Equity.” I think this conversation is ridiculous, and I’m obviously in the minority, but I think it’s a travesty.”

Board Chair Trevor Tucker said he did not care either way whether the goal’s title was Equity or Student Support, but with three board members in favor of the change, there was a consensus.

Mittelstadt explained the goal as “increasing access for all students to a high quality educational experience.”

She added, “The matrix that we’re really targeting are students with disabilities, our free reduced lunch population, the African American population. We’re looking to close those gaps that historically we’ve been flat with.”

McDonald said the descriptor that puts the targeted groups in those categories is their low performance.

“So, if we can keep it to an educational vocabulary, we wouldn’t have an issue, because it’s all about what they need to be successful, no matter what their packaging is, no matter what their orientation is,” McDonald said

She added that “every side” takes the term equity in different ways and it is “undermining our focus for our district.”

Other goal titles in the Strategic Plan include: Academics, Social and Emotional Well-Being, Talent, Operational Efficiency and Communications.

A final document is expected to be submitted for School Board adoption on Nov. 16.


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