LPS multicultural workshop stresses equity, accessibility

Lincoln Public Schools held its 25th annual Multicultural Leadership Institute on Tuesday, with a theme of “Equity in Action” that rings true for the school district moving forward.

“One of our priorities this year will be equity and accessibility for all students,” LPS Superintendent Steve Joel told an auditorium full of school district employees at Lincoln Southwest High School. “We have a duty to continue our journey to understand where kids are so we can understand where we are going to take them.”

Attendees chose either a morning or afternoon session, both featuring keynote speaker Susan O’Halloran and multiple small-group discussions. O’Halloran has delivered thousands of diversity and inclusion seminars and authored six books. Her keynote address on Tuesday touched on a wide variety of themes, including: inclusive and exclusive behaviors; managing inherent biases; and the importance of a diverse workplace.

A few of O’Halloran’s key points and pieces of advice:

  • “We unfortunately inherited so many things that get in the way of helping students. We have more power than we might ever think to do something about that.”
  • “We have to lower our standards to be inclusive - no! We still have the same high standards, we just have different ways of getting there.”
  • “It’s not your fault you have biases. The back part of your brain is firing all of the time. Listen to your survival brain, but don’t let it be in control. Learn how to manage your biases.”
  • “Challenge your assumptions with questions.”

The LPS Multicultural Office organizes the leadership institute. LPS Equity, Diversity and Multicultural Administrator Walter Powell recently finished his first school year in that position and spoke briefly at the beginning of both sessions.

“What I can tell you after being in this position for one year is that we have so many great things going on in the district; we have so many things going on for our kids,” Powell said. “What I can also tell you is we have more work to do. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be challenging at times. But we as a district are up to the task because we are here to educate all of our kids.”

Also on Tuesday, three members of the LPS Library Media Services Department were awarded the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools’ Leola Bullock Multicultural Award. LPS Director of Library Media Services Chris Haeffner, Library Media Services Coordinator Joy Harvey and secretary Rae Hunter-Pirtle accepted the honor, which recognizes LPS employees who foster understanding of our multicultural society.

Published: May 29, 2019, Updated: May 31, 2019