Trustees review sweeping Farmington Schools diversity proclamation

Farmington Public Schools trustees on Tuesday reviewed the first draft of a sweeping proclamation that declares the district anti-racist, declares racism a public health crisis, and calls for specific actions related to race and diversity. 

The document was developed after officials passed a resolution Support of Racial Equity and Justice, which some trustees said was rushed and lacked specific action items.

“The board decided we wanted something more substantial,” trustee Zach Rich, policy and governance subcommittee chair, said during the electronic meeting.

The proclamation, linked in agenda item VII.C. here: meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Agenda/1087?meeting=349189, calls for:

  • researching and integration of racially and culturally relevant elements into the curriculum,
  • required staff trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion, focused on race and implicit bias, and board training on race and implicit bias,
  • monitoring and reporting of racial incidents,
  • working with Farmington Public Safety and Farmington Hills Police Department to review standards and expectations and promote a culturally affirming climate,
  • discontinue the celebration of Columbus Day and recognize and honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day,
  • formation of race and other identity-based employee Affinity Groups to give staff members a safe space to air their concerns,
  • continuation of an institutional culture audit and regular staff satisfaction surveys, particularly regarding racial issues, and
  • developing an equity in education policy and procedures.

RIch said the document drew on the original resolution, and similar measures from neighboring school districts and the City of Farmington Hills. He also acknowledged the assistance of Jonathan Solomon, Assistant Director of the John B. Ervin Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis, and Farmington Hills resident Nicole Wells Stallworth, who is Oakland University’s Assistant Vice President for Government and Community Relations.

‘An issue with erasing history’

Board secretary Angie Smith said she would have wanted to see some of the board’s three African-American trustees involved in creating the draft.

“You, as not being a man of color, do not understand what we are going through,” she said, adding she would not support the proclamation “because of the institutionalized racism and systemic racism in this community.”

Rich said he requested feedback from all trustees on July 8, and Rich said after the meeting that Weems was the only one to respond. Smith is also a member of the policy and governance committee.

Board vice president Terry Johnson said he would have a hard time supporting the proclamation as well.

“I just want to see everybody treated the same,” he said, “and sometimes when we go out of our way to treat someone better than or more than someone else… that’s just my personal issue with that. I also have somewhat of an issue with erasing history, right, wrong, or indifferent… I’m having a very difficult time with some of the language I’ve heard in there.”

Board treasurer Terri Weems wanted to see an action plan and timeframe, as well as feedback from “people who are actually on the ground and experiencing what we may not be experiencing as board members.”

President Pam Green said the board would ask for frequent updates from Supt. Dr. Bob Herrera. He recommended the board assign the project to a committee, which would receive regular updates.

Rich asked trustees to submit any additional comments within the next week. Trustees may vote on the proclamation at their August 11 meeting.

Clarification: Language was added to the original version of the post to clarify that trustee Smith is a member of the policy and governance committee, that trustee Rich asked for feedback from all trustees, and only trustee Weems responded. 

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