Peace Center to honor QCSD for inclusion program

The Quakertown Community School District will be hon­ored by The Peace Center for imple­ment­ing its diver­si­ty and inclu­sion pro­gram for ele­men­tary school stu­dents, “Celebrating Me, Celebrating You,” at a district-wide level.

It’s the only dis­trict in Bucks County to do so,” said Kate Whitman, assis­tant direc­tor for The Peace Center, a social jus­tice orga­ni­za­tion. “This is a well-deserved hon­or for the district.”

The Peace Center Auction Gala is sched­uled for Sunday, Oct. 20, from 4–7 p.m. at Spring Mill Manor.

We very much appre­ci­ate this recog­ni­tion giv­en to our school dis­trict by the Peace Center,” Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said. “More impor­tant­ly, the work they have done in our class­rooms, the lessons they have shared, have been a great ben­e­fit to our stu­dents. Our teach­ers have embraced the cur­ricu­lum and feed­back from our par­ents has been very positive.” 

All dis­trict fourth graders com­plete the pro­gram designed to devel­op tol­er­ance and empa­thy among stu­dents while build­ing a more inclu­sive class­room com­mu­ni­ty. Once a week, they take part in five, 45-minute sessions.

The cur­ricu­lum, which takes place dur­ing a science/social stud­ies peri­od, was one of sev­er­al ini­tia­tives tak­en by dis­trict offi­cials fol­low­ing a Cheltenham-Quakertown foot­ball game, after Strayer Middle School stu­dents shout­ed racial taunts at Cheltenham’s cheerleaders.

Following the dis­ap­point­ing event, Dr. Harner told the School Board he would do every­thing he could to “dri­ve a bus through our racism prob­lem.” With the Board’s approval, he has attacked the issue on sev­er­al fronts.

Pearl S. Buck International brought its “Welcome Workplace” pro­gram to the dis­trict, where it gave 473 con­fi­den­tial assess­ments to dis­trict employ­ees, includ­ing admin­is­tra­tors, teach­ers and School Board mem­bers assess­ing their own per­son­al views. PSBI fol­lowed up those sur­veys with con­fi­den­tial, one-on-one dis­cus­sions with each Board mem­ber and admin­is­tra­tor, and held group meet­ings with teach­ers at each school. It also helped the dis­trict set up a Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Dr. Harner held a din­ner for par­ents of African-American stu­dents to hear their con­cerns and explain dis­trict plans to address them. He also vis­it­ed Cheltenham, the high school he grad­u­at­ed from, to speak with stu­dents, par­ents and edu­ca­tors in the days fol­low­ing the inci­dent. “Since October, our com­mu­ni­ty has had a ton of coura­geous con­ver­sa­tions. It was a great teach­able moment,” he said.

A por­tion of the Superintendent Goals for 2019–20 have been shaped by these ini­tia­tives. They include:

  • Develop and con­sis­tent­ly rein­force a pos­i­tive cul­ture for learn­ing at the class­room, build­ing, dis­trict, and com­mu­ni­ty level.
  • Develop and con­sis­tent­ly rein­force a pos­i­tive cul­ture of ser­vice, respect, and diver­si­ty at the class­room, build­ing, dis­trict, and com­mu­ni­ty level.
  • Develop pro­gram­ming and oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the MLK National Day of Service in January 2020
  • Be vig­i­lant in ensur­ing the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of all school build­ings and the cen­tral office. Address stu­dent well­ness as a com­po­nent of ensur­ing safe and secure schools. 

Ms. Whitman, who teach­es sev­er­al of the “Celebrating Me, Celebrating You” class­es, said “In pri­or­i­tiz­ing diver­si­ty and inclu­sion pro­gram­ming, Quakertown Community School District is a mod­el for what we would like to see in school dis­tricts around Bucks County and beyond! We would like to thank every­one in the Quakertown Community School District for dis­play­ing the courage and com­mit­ment that peace­build­ing requires!”

She praised Dr. Bill Harner for reach­ing out to The Peace Center and pri­or­i­tiz­ing this pro­gram­ming as a district-wide ini­tia­tive. She also thanked the ele­men­tary school prin­ci­pals for coor­di­nat­ing the pro­gram in their build­ings and being active par­tic­i­pants in our lessons; the teach­ers who rein­forced the lessons, and made the cur­ricu­lum part of their class­room cul­tures; and the PTOs who brought these con­ver­sa­tions to par­ents across the district.

Creating peace is a com­mu­ni­ty effort,” Ms. Whitman said, “and with­out all of you, cre­at­ing peace for our stu­dents would not be pos­si­ble! Thank you for part­ner­ing with us in peace.”