Chamberlain cultural resolution nearing approvalCHAMBERLAIN — The Chamberlain School District and The Coalition for Cultural Equality appear to be a little closer to achieving a cultural standards resolution. Superintendent Debbie Johnson read the latest draft of the measure to the school board Monday night after she and representatives from the school board and coalition met that afternoon.
By: Melanie Brandert, The Daily Republic
CHAMBERLAIN — The Chamberlain School District and The Coalition for Cultural Equality appear to be a little closer to achieving a cultural standards resolution.
Superintendent Debbie Johnson read the latest draft of the measure to the school board Monday night after she and representatives from the school board and coalition met that afternoon.
The fourth version removes the word “attempt,” stating that the school district will foster inclusion, equality and diversity and disseminate it into the area community and measure progress in achieving a culturally positive learning community outside the school system through annual learning opportunities.
Coalition representative Jim Cadwell, of Chamberlain, told the board that both sides tentatively agreed to remove language regarding “institutional racism” from the resolution.
Cadwell had advocated keeping a clause about the district addressing institutional racism, which deals with unsaid things or policies in which students aren’t always treated the same, in an earlier draft.
“I need to talk with the larger group,” he said. “We both made compromises.”
The coalition proposed the resolution at a March meeting with the school board in Fort Thompson, several weeks before six students wore “White Pride World Wide” Tshirts to school on April 28. The district has a significant portion of students who are American Indian.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, the school board received a letter dated June 21 from Samuel Robertson, a coalition member, who asked that the board reconsider accepting the first draft that was agreed upon by both sides.
He said the use of the word “attempt” is to fail because it holds nothing of substance with which to work for all involved, and he doubts how any effort could be measured.
The latest draft shows that the district is willing to make a commitment to accomplish standards, Cadwell said afterward.
“We need to have something that is measurable,” he said. “I can attempt to do something, but put very little effort at it.”
Cadwell, who attended the afternoon meeting with his wife, Maureen, said they requested that the word “attempt” be removed because it wasn’t assessable. Board member Steve Fox, who wrote the third draft with that word, wanted that left in the resolution, Cadwell said.
Both sides had a lengthy discussion about equality and diversity, as well as differences between cultures, during the hour-long meeting, he said.
“We seem to be on both ends of the spectrum,” Cadwell said. “In order to get a working document, we need to both be willing to give something up.”
Fox said afterward that he thought the board and Johnson were at the point of compromise, and a difference of language occurred Monday. He said he didn’t think the change in the latest draft altered the district’s intent.
“We believe our language is already inclusive,” Fox said. “We think that the changes that we’re making are something we’ve always done within the school and the resolution is not new.
“We’re saying that perhaps if there is more we can do and we figure that out somewhere down the road, we will. But our teachers are doing pretty good.”
Johnson said afterward the change in the latest draft shows the school is making a commitment. She said the school already has policies that support doing those initiatives.
“It’s another way to show that we are serious about having a culturally proficient learning community or school,” Johnson said of the resolution.
She acknowledged some hard work and compromises occurred with both sides Monday afternoon.
“I think looking at the resolution, that Jim sees many of the things that are in there that the school board will commit to,” Johnson said of Cadwell.
She said she didn’t think another meeting would be needed between school board and coalition representatives, adding both sides are closer than in the past.
Cadwell said the full coalition will meet today to discuss the latest draft of the measure. He said he thought a final draft could be ready for the board in two weeks, depending on the coalition’s flexibility.