Southington Women for Progress in partnership with the Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington hosted a recent panel discussion on equity in education with more than 70 local leaders, educators, and residents in attendance.
This event followed a series of community conversations held by SWFP response to community members speaking out about injustices and racism.
On Apr. 8, educators, administrators, parents, and concerned citizens from Southington and other Connecticut communities gathered at Derynoski Elementary School to hear a statewide panel of experts discuss how schools can foster equity.
Panelists included Dr. Madeline Negrón, chief of academics, teaching, and learning for Hartford Public Schools; Dwight Sharpe, district equity, restorative practice, and social emotional learning facilitator for Middletown Public Schools; Dr. Jacob Werblow, associate professor of educational leadership at Central Connecticut State University; Dr. Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden Public Schools; LaShawn Walwyn, a local teacher and instructional coach; and Merrill Gay, executive director for Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance. The discussion was moderated by Kerry Lord, director of programs at the Connecticut Center for Social Change.
Negrón explained how being an English language learner limited her access to opportunities as well as teachers’ expectations of what she would achieve. She said she made it her mission to make conditions better for other students.
Cardona said she has shifted from tolerating differences to celebrating diversity.
“Race is a big part of all of us, but it’s not our only identity,” said Sharpe. “We need to create safe spaces for students to show their full selves at all times. And those identities need to be represented in students’ educational experiences.”
Panelists discussed the achievement gap, or opportunity gap, and the relationship between reading achievement and poverty in Connecticut. They also touched on how adverse early childhood experiences greatly influence students’ personal and academic trajectories.
Walwyn summarized key points of the panelists’ discussion before audience members were welcomed to contribute their comments and questions at a microphone. “We are teaching kids—not curriculum,” she noted.
As the event came to a close, the moderator and panelists encouraged attendees to continue these conversations in their communities.
This event was SWFP’s first panel discussion, following five prior community conversations on privilege, racism, and monuments in public spaces. All events are free and open to the public but registration is required. More information can be found at www.southingtonwomenforprogress.org.