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Addressing Diversity in Tempe Union

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Addressing Diversity in Tempe Union

Dr. Cliff Moon considers his first nine months in Tempe Union’s newly created role of Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator part of what he calls “a building year.” He’s spent his time having conversations, discussions and perhaps more importantly listening and building relationships within the school community and among its stakeholders.

The married father of four earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Arizona, a Masters in Secondary Education Counseling from Northern Arizona University, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.

Prior to coming to Tempe Union in July of 2016, Dr. Moon was an educator in the Mesa School District since 1990, where he served in various roles, including social studies teacher, school counselor and diversity specialist. He is a member of the City of Mesa Human relations Advisory Board, the Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee, and co-founder of the Arizona Multicultural Education Conference.

At TUHSD, Dr. Moon hopes that through awareness and knowledge, he can help spark healthy conversations and beneficial relationships on the topic of diversity.

“I see my role not as the sole expert but creating an environment of sharing and fostering a mutual understanding of diversity related issues/topics,” Moon said. “I approach this role by considering the following: 1) What can individuals tell me about the diversity of the school and the community?, 2) How do individuals see themselves contributing to the district’s initiative to address diversity issues? 3) How do we work together to promote and sustain diversity, inclusion, and equity within the school community?”

In some of his conversations race seems to have a considerable role in defining diversity, however, Moon says many students and staff believe diversity is much more complex, going beyond race and ethnicity to include all the ways people are unique.

“The challenge is finding the various approaches and strategies to have this conversation. People have different ways of taking in information,” he said. “It is my hope that we will be able to incorporate and advance conversations and discussions on diversity, inclusion, and equity in a variety of ways.”

One of Moon’s first goals was to create the TUHSD Community Diversity & Inclusion Committee, a group of people with diverse personal/professional backgrounds, diverse life experiences, religious backgrounds, etc, who are united in providing diverse perspectives on diversity issues and how those issues directly or indirectly can impact the school community. Moon says they share the following:

  • An interest in ensuring that TUHSD students receive an equitable education and realize positive social experiences
  • A collective belief that community engagement is a vital component of developing and implementing a successful diversity policy
  • An acknowledgement that while the ultimate authority to make decisions resides with the Governing Board, the committee can conduct studies, help identify problems, and make recommendations

A bulk of Dr. Moon’s time has been spent with students, taking a deeper look at their personal experiences, how they view the multicultural climate on their campuses, and how they believe positive changes can be made.

He believes that students’ voices are incredibly important and a key component to devising plans or approaches to diversity issues. What he discovered is the students reported they believe they have benefited from the diversity in their schools. Additional findings include:

  • Students learn better when they feel comfortable and welcomed in their school.
  • Students say that diversity of the school improves their learning and social experiences.
  • Academic success should not be the only factor in determining what constitutes an excellent school.
  • Planning diversity related events requires the input from diverse groups of students.
  • Students can/should reach out to other students across cultures.
  • Groups of students of color reported that on campus they have been aware of negative stereotypes some people hold about them.
  • Some students of color feel that race has some bearing (usually as an impediment) on their academic success.
  • Some students describe students of color as tending to spend time primarily with members of their own racial/ethnic group, but attribute this solely to comfort and familiarity with their group.
  • Tolerance of diverse perspectives is an important value to have.
  • The students are more likely to be involved with peers and friends that include diverse groups.

He is guiding school administrators on how to continue these healthy dialogues and engagement with students in order to allow them to play a major role in promoting and addressing diversity.

Additionally, Moon is working on cultural competency and proficiency skills training for staff and he is co-facilitating the District’s recently formed social and emotional wellness cadre. He’s also exploring restorative justice practices, reaching out to immigrant and refugee families, and forming partnerships such as with Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. He continues to meet with students and student groups and work on plans for small scale diversity programing to meet the needs of individual schools.

Source: Tempe Union High School District.

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