Saugus District rethinks Black Lives Matter resolution; introduces resolution about racial, educational equity

The Saugus Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal
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After discussing a resolution June 23 that would formalize its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the Saugus Union School District governing board has dropped the idea, and is set to discuss a new resolution during its next meeting.

The SUSD board agenda released Thursday night shows a board action item that calls on the board to proactively address perceived and actual education inequity based upon race, color and other factors that may affect equal access to educational opportunity.

The previous resolution, authored by David Barlavi, the governing board trustee for Area No. 1, declared that the lives of students, families and teachers of color matter, and that “all Black lives matter.”

“Be it further resolved, the Saugus Union School District governing board encourages and supports the local young protesters and activists who are giving their time and efforts to keep the flame of the Black Lives Matter movement shining brightly in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Barlavi’s proposed resolution, which was on the board’s June 23 agenda.

Barlavi told The Signal this week that the resolution would be back for the July 7 agenda. That turned out not to be the case.

After a story published online by The Signal about Barlavi’s proposed resolution drew both the praise and ire of a number of community members, board President Julie Olsen commented publicly on the story that the item would not be coming back for the July 7 agenda.

When asked for the video of the virtual meeting on June 23, Superintendent Colleen Hawkins responded that the SUSD board meetings are not recorded, meaning that in order to have heard the discussion on the Black Lives Matter resolution, one would have had to have watched it live.

However, the minutes for that meeting show that board members Chris Trunkey and Olsen expressed no objection to the resolution. Board member Laura Arrowsmith asked how the resolution aligned with the school district’s mission and David Powell asked what actions would be taken beyond the resolution, according to the minutes.

Barlavi then asked for the board to work together on the resolution, to which Olsen responded that they “would like a revised approach to the resolution and bring it back for further discussion and revise to reflect the district goals and needs.”

“It was a discussion item only; no action was taken,” Olsen said via email on Wednesday.

Olsen did not respond to multiple requests for additional comment to clarify what transpired in the June 23 meeting and to respond to Barlavi’s assertion this week that his proposed resolution would be back on the agenda for Tuesday, July 7.

The new resolution, which does not mention either the statement “Black lives matter” or the political movement “Black Lives Matter,” does, in the preambulatory clauses, affirm the district’s commitment to eliminating discriminatory practices, acknowledge achievement gaps between students, demonstrate an understanding that racism and discrimination have impacted educational experiences for Black students and students of color, and instruct the board to take a self-reflective action and recognize the need to put equity at the forefront of their work.

The operative clauses then reaffirm the board’s commitment to inclusive learning/work environments, and directs Hawkins to carry out “thoughtful and meaningful community conversations” with district staff.

“The board recognizes that these conversations are best conducted in person and that the COVID-19 pandemic creates a challenge, but we encourage creative solution planning to ensure these conversations may occur safely as soon as possible,” reads the new resolution. “The superintendent or their designee(s) will update the board on planning and progress toward this goal, by the first board meeting in September.”

The new resolution also calls on the superintendent to consult with diversity experts and update the board regularly, providing recommendations for improvement “through a culturally responsive and restorative justice lens.”

“Our efforts outlined herein serve as a beginning point and we encourage evaluation and reflection on any instances where discrimination and achievement gaps are experienced by any staff or students,” the new resolution reads.

The next Saugus Union School District governing board meeting is scheduled to take place virtually at 6:30 p.m..Tuesday. To join via Zoom teleconference, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87002461835.

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