After the “March Against Racism in The Coronado Schools” on Saturday, June 13, students, parents and community members had questions and concerns for the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) School Board. Recently I sat down with Karl Mueller, the Superintendent of the CUSD, to ask him how the district addresses issues of race within the Coronado schools and what changes they plan to make moving forward.
We started by discussing parents and students’ experiences dealing with racism in the CUSD that were highlighted at the march. He explained how he felt it was important to hear from the students and parents they serve. He said, “More than anything it really just solidified the need to create learning environments in Coronado that are more proactive and responsive to issues of race and diversity.”
Mueller explained how powerful it was for him to hear from current and former students and their parents about their experiences. “Some of the realities that they brought to light for me really emphasized the urgency behind our need to build systems and structures in order to best support every child in our district.” Mueller views this situation as an opportunity to learn, and he and the school board will embrace it to ensure that all of the students in Coronado schools feel safe, valued and respected.
The CUSD’s current Board Policy on Nondiscrimination was approved in 2018. At their meeting on Thursday, June 18, the board reviewed this policy and showcased highlights of the updated board policy which will be presented to the school board in one of the upcoming months. It offers: “In order to eradicate institutional bias of any kind, including implicit or unintentional biases and prejudices that affect student achievement, and to eliminate disparities in educational outcomes for students from historically underserved and underrepresented populations, the County Board shall proactively identify class and cultural biases as well as practices, policies, and institutional barriers that negatively influence student learning, perpetuate achievement gaps, and impede equal access to opportunities for all students.”
You can watch the full board meeting on the CUSD’s website, to hear specifically about the current and future nondiscrimination policies, please see item 7.1.
“For us to realize the systemic change, we need to take a critical look at different facets of our district,” said Mueller.
Some of the facets he listed included staffing, human resources, discipline policies, curriculum and instruction, and professional development for staff.
“Where we are going to realize significant and sustainable growth will be in equipping our staff on how to navigate discussions, embed and incorporate multicultural perspectives, promote cultural literacy, and have conversations that are inclusive in order to prepare all of our learners to be global citizens,” said Mueller.
Mueller went on to explain that this is a tremendous opportunity to influence the community of learners within the district. “That includes the adults in the building, and I’m on that list,” he added.
Mueller hopes to continue dialogue with the community and student body so that the district can hear how their efforts have been received, explaining, “We learn by listening, and speaking with one another.”
There was a petition created by three Coronado High School juniors, Chloe Berk, Phina Bustos, and Paula Martinez, entitled, “Coronado Schools Address Racism” that has thousands of signatures. The petition calls for the district to “create a plan to address systematic racism,” and has a list of demands for the 2021 school year. I asked Mueller about his thoughts on this petition.
“I’m very impressed,” he said. “We have amazing students, and the petition to me is symbolic of the agency our youth have embraced.” He continued, saying that the advocacy the students’ have for justice, and for ensuring the safety and respect of their peers, “speaks volumes for the students that we have in Coronado.”
Mueller emphasized that the student body, staff, governing board, and community are ready to embrace change, and that student voice has been a driving force in moving towards that. “I’m very encouraged by the agency and by the voices of the students that started this petition, and of students who have been vocal in their advocacy for change. [The district] has a responsibility to be responsive.”
At the end of our interview, I asked Mueller if he had anything he’d like to say to the students and parents in the CUSD. He reinforced his gratitude for the students and parents who have chosen to speak up about their experiences. He expressed regret and apologies to the former students that had experiences within Coronado Schools that made them feel that they weren’t being valued, respected, or protected. He added, “With that regret, a commitment to work towards a more inclusive and culturally responsive environment for future students.”
“If they were sitting in front of me, I would just want to say thank you, and I’m sorry,” said Mueller. “Your voice has helped drive systemic shifts that I’m excited are coming to the CUSD, please know that you played a role in that.”