Committing to change

Millard starts district committee to hear student diversity issues

Lily Taylor, Sports Editor

As a district, MPS guarantees each student will demonstrate character, knowledge, and skills required to succeed. While education-wise students are prepared for success in college, when confronted with societal issues previous alumni feel their Millard education has put them at a disadvantage. 

“Since our graduation, each of us has confronted a reality that our MPS education did not prepare us for… We have discovered that the narrative of equal opportunity and access in America is a myth,” alumni said in their Open Letter to Millard written this summer.

In an effort to change the racial dynamic and systematic racism present in the Millard community, alumni have called for the implementation of a new committee formed strictly for the diversity and inclusion of minority voices in district decisions.  

“Solutions must value the voices and needs of Black and other marginalized students, and we must follow their lead in implementing change,” alumni said. 

In response to this call to action, Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin released a plan for a new Student Diversity Committee tailored towards preventing and ending racial issues in our community. 

“Moving forward we are developing a listening strategy so that we make sure we are hearing from our black students, and other students of color as well as other marginalized groups,” Superintendent Jim Sutfin said in his Jun. 8 statement. “We can’t solve what we don’t know, and we can’t assume.  This will give us the information and data. We will listen.”

The committee will be made of students from each high school with representatives from each grade level. They will conference regularly with head district officials Sutfin, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin Chick, and Associate Superintendent of Education Services Heather Phipps. 

The individual students on the committee will be nominated by the principals of each school. 

“Each principal is establishing the Student Diversity Council in [their] building.  Many schools already have Diversity Clubs.  Then, each principal will recommend a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior for the District Student Diversity Council,” Chick said. 

With their primary focus being to listen to the issues and experiences of each individual student, they plan for the students to lead the discussion. 

“Our primary focus this year, as shared in the public statement, is to listen.  We want to hear from our students in terms of their experiences and feelings around these issues,” Chick said. “These issues will be driven by the students on the Student Diversity Council.”

With MN’s Diversity Club starting Sept. 10, no students have been elected for the District Student Diversity Committee. 

According to Head Principal, Brian Begley, they worked closely with senior Valery Shafack this summer to determine which students would best fit the role in the district committee. 

“[Mr. Begley] asked me to pick a group of students who I think would be able to push that boundary and help change the narrative. It wasn’t tough because I have a lot of friends who are very passionate about the issue and especially within our school,” Shafack said. 

They have high expectations for the committee and have set their standards for change. 

“I want us to meet at least twice a month [and be] very diverse. I want us to meet and bring hard-hitting topics that normally people would be scared to talk about,” Shafack said. “We can learn from each other and grow and understand each other better.” 

With this new committee, students believe change is imminent and welcomed. Their hopes to grow as a community become ever stronger as conversation starts and change begins.