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Schools’ equity office aims to expand its work with new staff training and AI tool

The Baker School in Brookline. Photo courtesy of Baker School Extended Day.
June 3, 2024

Brookline schools are trying to boost the district’s Office of Educational Equity (OEE) by creating teams of staff at each school to focus on equity, and rolling out an artificial intelligence tool to help educators create lesson plans.

OEE will establish “equity teams” as part of a pilot program at the Florida Ruffin Ridley, Lawrence, and Pierce schools next fall, according to the office’s assistant director Cristina Hernandez. Each equity team will include the school’s principal, vice principal, guidance counselor, and “equity leads.”

“These are typically the staff members that facilitate a lot of team meetings that occur in middle school, which is where we’ll be concentrating this pilot program,” Hernandez said at a School Committee meeting on May 16. “I will be training these equity teams, who will then go on to train their grade-level teams.”

The equity office has struggled with resources in recent years. Last summer, its two leaders departed, with one citing an “unhealthy urgency” and “lack of clarity” which made her job difficult.

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Senior director Claire Galloway-Jones joined the office in July, and Hernandez in November.

Neither responded to a Brookline.News request for more information about the new initiative.

Each equity team will complete training modules in 10 “competencies of equity,” such as internalized biases, behavioral support, and English language strategies.

“I think what’s so beautiful about these competencies is they come directly from the extensive feedback of educators, administrators, directly from students, and from families,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also said OEE will be using a tool called Brookline Equity Coach, an artificial intelligence tool that compiles modules to help educators create lesson plans on equity competencies. The tool was created by former intern Ruiz Clark to make OEE’s workload more manageable, Hernandez said.

“We are a team of two and we can’t be everywhere at every time, but we want practitioners to feel supported,” Hernandez said.

To implement the program, Hernandez will create five toolkits by the fall of 2024 and train equity teams in those toolkits by the spring of 2025, she said. Equity teams will then train sixth, seventh, and eighth grade educators at their schools in five toolkits during the spring of 2025, Hernandez said. At that point, OEE will consult with school leadership to determine next steps.