Proposed Staff Addition to State High’s Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Outside State College High School (Noah Demo)
Outside State College High School (Noah Demo)
Outside State College High School (Noah Demo)
Noah Demo

A key line item of note in the 2024-2025 budget under consideration by the SCASD School Board is the reinstatement of a full-time Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) position in the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (SCASD Board Docs). Since the office was created in 2018, staffing in the office has fluctuated. Currently, the office is staffed by Tonya Black, the director of equity, inclusion, and belonging K-12, Samantha Corza, an english and journalism teacher at State High, who also serves as the equity liaison, and Patricia Storch, the office secretary.  

Students likely know about the office from its two most popular events: the annual Lift Every Voice event in February and Summer Equity Institute. However, the office works with students and teachers throughout the year to educate the SCASD community about how to foster a more welcoming and inclusive learning environment.

The office was formed following the passage of the Inclusive Excellence Policy and Antiracism Policy by the SCASD School Board. 

According to Black, the office has a clear mission, “to ensure the well-being and success of every student and employee through personal connection, professional development, consultation, and outreach rooted in equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

For Black and Tobias, the new position will be very important in implementing the mission. The new position will be titled, Secondary Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Liaison, and be responsible for supporting equity programming at the secondary level by: 

  • Supporting SCASD’s Office of Equity programming and outreach efforts.
  • Coordinating secondary programming supports such as No Place for Hate, REACT and SPIRIT.
  • Consulting with school MTSS and PBIS teams at all levels.
  • Engaging as a core member of the SCASD Equity Team.
  • Equity-based goal and progress monitoring to promote student involvement and success.  

“The desired impact is increased student achievement and success, along with increased connection/sense of belonging, especially for historically underrepresented groups,” Black said.

Tobias went even further, noting the positive impact on students. “With more resources and support, the office can expand its reach and effectiveness in fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for ALL students. The additional staff member can help us develop and implement new initiatives, provide more personalized support to students, and enhance existing programs to better meet the diverse needs of the student body. My hope is that this will lead to greater engagement, empowerment, and success for students across various backgrounds,” Tobias said.

Since its formation, the Equity Institute has had no shortage of success, in spite of it’s more challenging moments. 

“One thing that I’d really like to point to is the Summer Equity Institute. I think that’s really helped students grow as people. The Lift Every Voice program is also great because of how it gives students a voice, as stated by its name. Both of these programs both make me feel really proud because of the high levels of student involvement and leadership aspects of the initiatives,” Black stated in an email. 

Although Tobias cited similar successes, she also pointed to the challenges associated with implementing DEIB programs. “Oftentimes, it can be difficult to promote positive and effective communication in spite of differing perspectives. Repairing and restoring relationships whenever harm occurs can also be quite challenging,” Tobias said. 

There are many ways that students can get involved. If they belong to grades 8-11, they can register for the summer equity institute between June 18-20,  the link to which will be sent through email. They are also able to join the Lift Every Voice Program next February, and the Peer Ambassadors group led by Mary Manhart, and the SPIRIT student leadership group led by Ryan Walsh

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