Equity and Inclusion in Gill-Montague

Equity and Inclusion in GMRSD 

The Equity Steering Committee (ESC) is a group of GMRSD staff, families, students, and community members which had its beginnings during the 2018/2019 school year, with the goal of discussing equity issues and to make action-plan recommendations for creating a safer, more inclusive school community environment. We invite everyone to read further on equity and inclusion work in Gill-Montague and to check out websites, videos, and materials listed further below. 

The ESC met monthly during the 2019/2020 school year up until March 2020 when the school buildings closed. At the last meeting (before we knew that our lives would change so drastically), we discussed the possibility of continuing our meetings without the facilitators, who at that time were stepping down. The ESC was largely in agreement to move forward and focus our efforts in a couple of key areas, including but not limited to:

  1. Integrating Teaching Tolerance, Social Justice, Culturally Responsive, and Equitable Teaching practices into our instructional programs throughout the district to reflect diversity of our collective experiences.

  2. Ongoing review of our accountability and incident reporting procedures and data from an equity lens. This would include transparency in communications with our families, consistency in responding and addressing issues of bias and inequity.

  3. Ongoing dialogue where we can safely and respectfully discuss these sensitive issues and work toward solutions together. 

As this fall has presented so many challenges - developing multiple learning models for the reopening of school; opening under a robust remote learning plan, and working to open in a hybrid model - we haven’t been able to meet. However, the topic of equity remains a priority, and GMRSD remains committed to fulfilling our goal of addressing equity challenges systemically and situationally so that students, their families, and all of our staff are consistently treated in a fair and equitable way. We hope to be able to meet again once everyone’s schedules settle down. 

Last year the ESC spent a lot of time exploring our own beliefs and approaches in this area, and it was and will continue to be hard work. Since March, this issue has been re-ignited on a national level with the horrendous murder of a young black man by police officers. It has, for many of us, brought this issue even closer to our hearts as we try to move forward as a nation and a community with more determination than ever to work toward an equitable future. 

Essential elements of the school district’s efforts to address issues of bias within the schools include, but are not limited to the following:  

  • Promote education and on-going professional development to increase knowledge and staff capacity to recognize and proactively respond to bias incidents including those involving microaggressions and unconscious bias.

  • Integration of social justice standards and social /emotional learning into our curriculum in rich and meaningful ways to increase understanding and background knowledge. 

  • Timely and transparent administrative action to address all conduct and behavior that violates our principles and commitment to inclusion.

  • Implemented a system for tracking all incidents of reported bias and/or potential civil rights violations and district responses.  This includes an administrative debrief to review consistency in responses and follow up. 

Equity and inclusion practices within our Gill-Montague District schools and community continue to be a work in progress: it will take time and continued commitment for these practices to be more fully realized.  However, here are just a couple of examples of our continued work.

  • Hillcrest Elementary School has been building a Diverse Books Collection for all of their teachers to use for read-alouds in the classroom. This is a part of their school plan to improve and expand their school-wide focus on teaching for diversity. In expanding their collection, they aim to provide more books that can both be mirrors, which reflect one’s own life and experiences, and windows, which allow us to understand the experiences of others. In teaching these texts, they are incorporating Teaching for Tolerance Social Justice Standards.

To introduce their new collection, last year they held a series of family events called     Family Read-Alouds in which all families were invited to come in and listen to one of the books being read in a “host” classroom. These events were well attended with positive feedback from the families. As part of the Family Read Alouds, they also developed a Diverse Books Lending Library so that families could enjoy these books (in English and Spanish) at home.  

  • This year, all Hillcrest students have received "Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Pena in their collection of At-Home Learning Materials for Remote Learning. 
  • Additionally, for the 20-21 school year, a team of Hillcrest educators, the building principal and our district pupil services director applied for, and were accepted into, a year long professional development and learning community focused on building equitable supports for children with disabilities. This professional learning community (PLC)  includes district participants across the state, centers on equitable supports as key for successful inclusion of children with disabilities, and requires school teams to develop an action plan for sustainable equitable practices.    The PLC topics to promote equitable supports are:
  1. Implicit Bias and understanding race, racism, and equity in special education.
  2. Inclusion supports for children in public pre-k and community programs.
  3. Engaging and working with families.
  4. Wellness practices for early childhood educators and administrators
  5. Trauma informed practices and the effects on learning for children with disabilities
  6. Using data collection to inform practices
  • Sheffield Elementary School began monthly read a louds on various Social Emotional Learning (SEL) topics looking to provide windows and mirrors for our students.  This work continues into this school year as well.  We started off the first few months conducting weekly SEL lessons and some grades continue doing just that.  We have shifted to monthly themed SEL lessons so we use various books that are grade specific but cover the same topic.

  • During the 2019-2020 school year, TFHS/GFMS professional development concentrated on equity work, anti-bias training, and social justice curriculum standards. On separate professional development days, the Collaborative for Educational Service out of Northampton provided our staff: equity training, anti-bias training, training on micro-aggressions, and training on how to embed and address Teaching Tolerance social justice standards within lessons. In addition, the TFHS/GFMS administrative team provided professional development based on specific Teaching Tolerance strategies that all staff are expected to use to speak up against any bias that they witness. Staff were able to role play specific situations with their colleagues. During the 2020-2021, Culture and Climate Clubs have been formed. In these clubs, the Principal and Assistant Principal team with students to create positive change within both schools that make all students feel welcome.

  • Another accomplishment was to put together a list of resources for our students, faculty, staff and school community to access on their own. If you have additional resources to share, please feel free to let us know and we’ll add them to the list.  Here are some great resources if you are interested in learning more and in supporting social equity in our district: 


  Videos & Podcasts

Books & Articles

  • Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See,Think, and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt 
    This book explains the research behind our unconscious racial biases and includes compelling examples from the author’s personal experience and professional work.

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
    A collection of short essays with clear responses to common questions about race, such as “I just got called racist, what do I do now?”

  • Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Exploring Race and Racism by Tracey A. Benson and Sarah Fiarman.

  • How To Be An Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi

Professional Learning and Resources

Curriculum Materials & Learning Standards

Interested in Equity Work in Gill-Montague?

Building a fair and just school community is not work intended for one person. The Equity Steering Committe’s meetings are on hold during the pandemic, but if you are interested in being involved in the future, please contact the Family Engagement Coordinator, Stacey Langknecht, at either 863-7473 or stacey.langknecht@gmrsd.org  and she will add you to the list of interested people. And in the meantime, we hope that you check out some of the resources listed above.