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Patriot Perspective: Welcoming communities, welcoming schools

There's been a significant amount of dialogue and hard work in recent years focused on ensuring that Minnesota, Region Five and Pequot Lakes area communities are welcoming places for families that bring diversity in terms of race, religion, political orientation, age, gender, socio-economic situation, etc.

Both the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Region Five Development Commission have communicated this as a priority for attracting and maintaining a robust workforce for local businesses, and Sourcewell has begun providing excellent training and support for public entities in our region.

Locally, the Pequot Lakes Economic Development Commission recently participated in the Intercultural Development Inventory and followup training offered by the R5DC and has engaged in several discussions about how we can be more purposeful in growing our workforce and attracting employees who are critical to our local economy.

The 2020 vision for Pequot Lakes Schools includes "cultivating a diverse world-view, self-awareness, self-discipline and the interpersonal skills necessary for success in the world." Last year a cohort of 30 teachers participated in SEED training (The National SEED Project) to strengthen their own cultural literacy capacities to be better equipped to deliver on this vision.

This year several teachers are participating in a regional equity leaders cohort facilitated by Sourcewell in partnership with EdChange, and a new "Cultural Perspectives" elective course was offered at Pequot Lakes High School for 11th- and 12th-graders.

Finally, all schools in our district are tightly focused on creating a safe and collaborative culture, the first level of our High Reliability Schools work.

Developing a diverse worldview in students who grow up in the Pequot Lakes area will not happen without an intentional focus on introducing them to different cultures, different perspectives and different ways of life while helping them learn to think critically, see multiple sides of issues, weigh opinions with their personal values and establish informed opinions.

Our administrative team has nearly completed a study of Gorski and Pothini's book "Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education," and the high school faculty is currently engaged in professional learning discussions organized around the same book.

The main purpose is to continue building the cultural literacy capacities of faculty and staff so we can cultivate a diverse worldview in our students in accordance with our district vision. Another key reason for doing this rigorous work is to ensure we are indeed welcoming schools for each and every student, parent and staff member who walks our halls.

We owe every person our very best regardless of religion, race, gender orientation, socio-economic situation or political persuasion. As a district we are working deliberately and diligently to ensure we indeed have a safe and collaborative culture for everyone.

Thank you to our partners in this most important work. Our partners include Sourcewell, Region Five Development Commission, Happy Dancing Turtle, the Pequot Lakes Economic Development Commission and EdChange.

It is a blessing to be working together on behalf of students and their families!