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Washtenaw United: Washtenaw Intermediate School District Works To Address Educational Inequities

Jan 20, 2020

(From L to R) Greg Myers and Dr. Scott Menzel from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
Credit David Fair / 89.1 WEMU

The 21-Day Equity Challenge continues this month as put forth by the United Way of Washtenaw County.  The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) is working to contributing to the cause, not only through the challenge, but throughout the year.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair talks with WISD superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel and WISD justice facilitator Greg Myers about the district's work to promote equity and social justice.


WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


ABOUT THE GUESTS:

Dr. Scott Menzel

WISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel
Credit Washtenaw Intermediate School District / washtenawisd.org

Dr. Menzel became superintendent of Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) on July 1, 2011.  Before coming to WISD, he spent four years as superintendent of the Livingston Educational Service Agency and five years as superintendent of Whitmore Lake Public Schools.  He is driven by the moral imperative to provide opportunities that are equitable, inclusive, and just for all students.  This work is achieved by working collaboratively with local, state, and national partners.

Greg Myers

WISD Justice Facilitator Greg Myers
Credit Washtenaw Intermediate School District / washtenawisd.org

Greg Myers has been part of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for 4 years.  He is currently serving as a Justice Leaders facilitator where he facilitates discussions on issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice.  He is currently on the Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper steering committee.  He also serves on the Integrated School parent advisory board, which is a national movement of white and privileged parents who have decided to enroll their children in urban schools.  He is a former school board member in the Willow Run Community School District and was a charter member on the new Ypsilanti Community Schools District.  He is passionate about racial issues in education because he has been married for 16 years and has 5 school aged children. 

RESOURCES:

Washtenaw Intermediate School District

Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice: Educator & School Supports

UWWC STATEMENT:

Inequities hurt everyone, United Way of Washtenaw County is focusing on removing barriers and increasing access so all people have the opportunity to thrive.  To that end, we are inviting the whole community to join us on a 21-Day Equity Challenge* kicking-off on Jan 6.  Participation in an activity like this helps us to discover how racial injustice and social injustice impact our systems, to connect with one another, to identify ways to dismantle racism and become better leaders for a more just, equitable community.  Sign-up online now: uwgive.org/equity or by texting UWWCEQUITY" to 22828. 

*The 21-Day Equity Challenge was designed by Food Solutions New England to replicate in communities throughout the country. 

In 2017, we committed to equity as a core value and practice to advance our mission. We define equity as the presence of justice and fairness within our procedures, processes, and distribution of resources. 

In all our roles we will consciously work to eliminate injustice and inequity.  We aspire to live in a community where: 

  • Community members seek understanding and awareness using their own power and privilege and actively working to end poverty in our County;
  • Your zip code no longer determines your opportunity in life;
  • The academic achievement gap is eliminated;
  • Everyone in our community has a home;
  • Life expectancy is the same across all populations and communities in our County;
  • Poverty is not generational.  If it exists, it is intermittent and brief;
  • Everyone in our County is able to thrive and meet their needs-- housing, food, transportation, education, health expenses and childcare. 

Right now in Washtenaw County, the data show: 

  • The life expectancy of African-Americans is 13 years shorter than that of white residents, and it is 20 years shorter for Latinx folks. (Source: MDHHS)
  • The Infant Mortality Rate varies widely between white and black babies: black babies under one year still die at almost twice the rate of white babies in Washtenaw County. (Source: MDHHS)
  • While Washtenaw County boasts an average graduation rate higher than the state average (87%), economically disadvantaged youth graduate at a significantly lower rate: 72% (Source: WACY 2015 report card)
  • Good social-emotional and mental health is a key component of children’s healthy development. Poverty, trauma, and inadequate treatment are three factors that have been shown to have a sustained, negative impact on children’s social, emotional and mental health.  Recent surveys of Washtenaw County students revealed that 29% of middle school students reported being bullied on school property in the past year, while 68% of African-American students witnessed in-school physical abuse.  (Source: WACY 2017 report card) 

More data about opportunity and equity in Washtenaw County can be found on the Washtenaw Opportunity Index and Health for All websites. 

We invite you to join us on this journey, learn more about Equity: uwgive.org/equity

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu