Why Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging?

PUSD strives to provide all students with an exceptional and high quality academic education, which it achieves through academic rigor and support for all areas of students’ social emotional growth. The work to develop culturally responsive classrooms addresses social emotional growth by connecting students’ cultures, languages, and life experiences to their education. This connection helps all students to successfully  access PUSD’s rigorous curriculum and develop high level academic and social skills.

Those who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)  often have a different experience in our schools. Our PUSD students of color have shared that they experience time and time again  an unspoken system of hierarchy based on the color of their skin. They have shared that they overwhelmingly believe they have no true allies  in their peers or teachers. Within our elementary schools students of color have experienced insensitive and bullying behavior based on their race, religion, and family structure, for example when they were told by peers that they aren’t allowed on the play structure because of  the color of their skin, that their skin was “dirty”, or that they didn’t belong because they had two mothers. We must do better for all our students. Teaching  our students about the importance and practice of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging will help them to counter discriminatory stereotypes by creating a better connection to and understanding of a variety of social groups and cultures that are different than their own. It will  provide students with a skill set and basis for an understanding of how to be better citizens in our community and into their future academic and professional experiences. 

By funding DEI-B in the classroom, we can invest in programs that will help our students develop trust, create healthy relationships, and strengthen a sense of belonging for everyone.

Belonging is without judgment….Sometimes people are left out because of their culture. It doesn’t matter who you are, but just be true to yourself.
– Zayna, 4th Grade

“I always feel like I belong in my family. Sometimes not everyone has that feeling in school.” 
– Elise, 2nd Grade

Members of the Piedmont Affinity and Identity Mentor Program sharing traditions and customs of Ramadan. The program connects PHS & MHS mentors with young students of similar cultural/ethnic identity.

Affinity mentor groups create connections and conversations, fostering a feeling of safety and inclusion in our community.

What do you need to know about DEI-B? Here are frequently asked questions. Do you want to learn more or have additional questions? Reach out to us at the PEF office via email at info@piedmontedfoundation.org.

Why is DEI-B work important for our kids?

Structural inequalities and systemic racism are as much a part of Piedmont schools as they are of most other U.S. institutions. Surveys and observations of Piedmont students, staff, and families show that race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, physical ability, and neurocognition of our students impacts opportunities for learning and achievement. Piedmont’s DEI-B work focuses on dismantling the “othering” of students and families to mitigate educational disparities, ensuring that all students are supported in achieving their potential. In addition to improving factors such as empathy and affinity, the introduction of diverse perspectives and the sharing of lived experiences outside of a student’s immediate or personal exposure enhances the frame of reference from which children draw their critical thinking skills.

Does this work get in the way of academic excellence?

Academic excellence remains the primary focus of PUSD, and DEI-B is one of the tools our schools plan to use to continue to achieve this excellence. As our new DEI Director, Dr. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard (Dr. V), wrote in a recent issue of Piedmont Ahead, “As I think about DEI-B, it is not a zero-sum game meaning that to do one, we lose something else. We won’t lose academic excellence, rigor and all of the academic structures that are a part of Piedmont. The irony is that with this possible misunderstanding that we will lose academic prowess, in my role, we are actually working to build structures to (1) embed and not take away, (2) make natural connections – not forced, and (3) create equitable programs – not diminish. In other words, DEI-B is about expansion in order for our future global leaders to become stronger allies in a multicultural world.”

Why did you choose DEI-B for year’s fund-a-need?

A Piedmont family has made a pledge to match, dollar-for dollar, all  funds raised by PEF toward next year’s DEI-B programming, up to $75,000. We are reaching out to elementary school families through this year’s fund-a-need to meet this challenge, and will run a separate campaign for middle and high school families to contribute. This is an incredible opportunity for the district to dedicate $150,000 towards next year’s efforts to maintain and expand the current work of the Piedmont schools’ in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, so we may create a more connected school community where everyone feels that they belong.

How exactly will PEF spend these DEI-B Fund A Need funds?

The overall PEF funding distribution for this year included $26,000 to support the DEI Director position and $18,000 to help with the stipends for the DEI Council, a group of teachers, staff, administrators, students, and parents who are working toward the DEI goals and objectives. Additionally, our anonymous donors gave a total of $72,000 for this year, of which $7,000 is being used for support staff for the Mentorship Program, $4,000 to purchase educational materials for the DEI Council, $3,000 to help the creation of a staff BIPOC network, $10,000 to fund the creation of a DEI-B roadmap for the future, and $48,000 for consultants to run facilitated equity and inclusion restorative practice professional development for PUSD teachers and staff. 

This is year 1 of the district’s 5-year plan to establish a firm foundation to begin meeting its DEI-B goals. If PEF raises $75,000 plus the $75,000 match, we will be able to continue growing both the mentorship and restorative justice programs, supporting the work of the DEI Council, developing anti-racist educational opportunites for all students, teachers, and administrators, working to attract and retain teachers that identify as BIPOC to our schools, and investing in facilitated equity and inclusion restorative practice professional development opportunities. This summer, Dr. Vanden Wyngaard, the district’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,  and the DEI council will begin reviewing the district’s curriculum through a DEI-B lens and will make recommendations to the PUSD School Board.