Know Before You Decide

DeSoto ISD’s Equity Committee developing tool to aid leaders in decision-making
Posted on 04/18/2022
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Leaders often make decisions that are crucial to an organization’s sustainability and well-being. What leads them to the decisions they make is at the core of a newly-formed Equity Committee to offer support.

In the fall of 2021, DeSoto ISD Coordinator of Data Design and Innovation Mallory Morris of the Research Evaluation Design department assembled a team of 12, some by open invitation and several from an employee survey gauging their interest, to explore equity in DeSoto ISD.

Morris has seen her share of issues and concerns.

“I call myself a gap-filler and a catchall person, and a problem finder/problem solver,” Morris said.

She collaborates with teams throughout DeSoto ISD, finding ways to help them execute programming. The DeSoto ISD Equity Committee was birthed from a priority in the District’s strategic plan.

“One of the core values states that each person has access to the resources and opportunities that meet their individual needs in a way that allows them to leverage their greatest strengths,” Morris said. “So that’s how we define relentless equity in our district.”

For some, “equity” isn’t easily understood. Morris’ definition is succinct.

“When I talk about dealing with issues of equity, it’s about getting on the right footing.”

Morris feels the equity lens view ensures policies and decisions reflect student needs in alignment with student expectations in a way that is fair and equitable.

“It helps us to stop looking at our kids like they’re a problem that we need to fix and that we need to adjust and get to conform into this fictitious, idyllic view of what it means to be a student and what it looks like to be successful, and what academic achievement looks like; and it allows us to see kids for who they are as individual people and respond to that.”

Mired in insular decision-making of the past, inclusivity has been key in outreach with hopes of eliminating adversity in mindset.

“So then we start going to people and helping people in our district community actually feel like they are a part of the work that happens, and not that things just happen to them.” Morris said.

Equity committee member Montwanette Taylor gladly joined in on the pivotal work that needed to be done.

“I want to be at the table when we’re making decisions,” Taylor said. “I want to talk about some of the things that are going on in this district that I work in.”

As a former instructional design leader for the District, now assistant principal at West Middle School, Taylor’s commitment goes beyond her district role.

“Not only am I an educator, but I’m a mother, I’m a parent. These are students that look like me and will probably be my doctors, lawyers; they probably will serve me,” she said. “As I get older, I want to make sure that the groundwork that we are doing here has them in mind.”

Morris finds the team as resourceful.

“What the folks on the committee have been able to provide me thus far is insight into some of the questions that go on in their head or some of the considerations that they want to make sure are not lost in the shuffle of making decisions,” she said.

From this information, a universal tool is being developed.

“What this committee is focusing on right now is conducting an equity assessment to be used to evaluate the impact of all major decisions and policies in the District,” Morris said. “What I’ve been working on in the interim is taking the input of all of these people that are on the committee and translating that into guiding questions that would essentially make up the tool.”

As affiliated with its name, the Equity Assessment Tool is for use by all to improve the school community.

“It’s for anybody who makes major decisions, so the leadership of DeSoto ISD,” Morris said.

Once finalized, the goal is to present the decision-making tool to DeSoto ISD cabinet members who will determine next steps. Recognizing the daily struggles with equity that occur, Morris sees implementation of the “questions to ask” mnemonic device throughout the District as the determining factor for success of the Equity Assessment Tool.

“Whether it be obvious and transparent and on the surface, or it be embedded and institutionalized and subconscious, this is what we engage in every day on some level or another,” Morris said. “Being a part of conversations that help you to rise, bring to surface everything that contributes to inequity, and what inequity really looks like and means in our society, I think makes us better people, makes us better equipped to do this thing called life and allows us to better support our kids.”