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New Westminster school district moves ahead with anti-racism work

Bakau Consulting outlines proposal for a three-stage effort to consult with staff, students and families and bring "JEDI" (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) work to New West's schools
The New Westminster school district is looking to engage Bakau Consulting to help lead the way in creating an anti-racism framework. The school board made a commitment in June 2020 to undertake the work, and they heard a proposal from the consultants on Feb. 23, 2021.

The New Westminster school district is forging ahead with its plans to create an anti-racism framework and strategy.

The district is looking to engage Bakau Consulting to implement the anti-racism work it committed to last spring. Consultants Koshiki Tanaka and Will Shelling appeared in front of the school board on Feb. 23 to outline a plan for how that work would proceed.

“Anti-oppression is the driving force of our work,” Tanaka said. “As a Black-led organization, we name, deconstruct, reimagine and recreate more just, equitable, accessible and inclusive systems.”

The work is planned in three stages. The first stage will involve assessing the current climate of the school district, through surveys, focus groups, reviews of district policies and procedures, and an examination of its social media and communications.

“We get to know what’s going on right now within the school district, and we identify areas of opportunity and where we can identify areas of growth as well,” Tanaka said.

All of that information will be compiled and taken to the district’s anti-racism steering committee, which has been set up to guide the process.

That leads into the second stage of the work, where an anti-racism action plan will be implemented and where curriculum will be delivered for all levels of the school district.

Shelling noted this stage will include three tiers of training for teachers and staff, covering the fundamentals of anti-oppression, disrupting unconscious bias and an introduction to racial justice.


The consultants will also help to create a “train the trainer” model so the district has in-house staff who can then train others in what Shelling dubs “JEDI” ways (that’s justice, equity, diversity and inclusion).

“We want to be able to give you folks the tools to run your own training,” Shelling said.

The third stage is ongoing support from the consultants to help the district develop and implement its anti-racism framework in whatever way it needs.

This stage, Tanaka noted, is flexible; the anti-racism committee will help to determine what the district really needs to take the work forward. It could include such steps as holding additional focus groups, reviewing any policy documents that have already been edited, or providing guidance on hiring practices.

“We’re going to be working on building your capacity,” Shelling said, “because, at the end of the day, this work will hopefully be able to stand on its own and also to create a sustainable sort of change within the school district.”

The consultants’ proposal is expected to be finalized in March, with the work set to begin with an initial audit survey in April.

Trustee Maya Russell asked how the board can best support the consultants’ work.

Tanaka said the board’s openness to the process is key to its success, and Shelling agreed.

“We really like to push top-down and also bottom-up change, especially within organizations,” Shelling said, noting the board can be an important voice in signalling it takes the work seriously. “You folks can really help us lead the charge.”

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