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Westfield Alumni for Change seeks to improve climate for all students

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Westfield Alumni for Change formed to find ways to improve the culture for all students

Kara Anderson, a 2016 Westfield High School graduate, said the group has created a survey to address how students feel included regardless of culture, race, religion, family background and sexual orientation. The idea for the survey came after working with the schools for approximately seven months.

“We’ve been having conversations with the schools individually and with the parents’ group and what we’ve come to realize is there are issues with school climate that need to be addressed more immediately,” Anderson said. “There are very tangible things that we think that can be done that are not being done. Before we advocate for some of these changes, we’d like to see what families and students are wanting to see.”

Anderson, who is working on her master’s degree at University of Toronto, said they want to make sure students are feeling represented in the curriculum and when they walk in the hallways.

Olivia Owens, a 2017 WHS graduate and Indiana University student who studies propaganda and social media, said when they formed the group one thing they learned from current and former students and some of the teachers is the surveys the individual schools and the district had put out were very lacking.

“They asked yes or no questions,” Owens said. “They were conducted far in between. They weren’t going to heart of it, are you asking if ‘I feel safe’ or asking if ‘’I feel represented.’”

Owens said the group has talked about ways to gather better data.

“This isn’t just a push for handbook changes and teacher training,” Owens said. “We’ve worked hard on the survey to make sure there is space where students can add their own answers and add more nuance.”

The survey is 10 questions plus an additional question where students and parents can add feedback and more specific things not covered in the survey.

Anderson said with the school being predominantly white heteronormative, it is easier for those students to feel more comfortable.

“In talking to students and families that are not white, they made it clear that when they walk into a building they feel turned off when there are not a lot of teachers of color and administrators of color and even things on the wall, if you have a mosaic of all white teachers, it can be very off-putting,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen a lot of these issues and even if you report them, oftentimes they are not addressed.”

There are 13 members of Westfield Alumni for Change meeting virtually each week.

“We’re hoping to get more community engagement, so we can be a better liaison between the community and the school,” Anderson said.

An example of the questions is “What would you like to see when you walk in the hallways and classrooms to make you and your family feel more represented?”

Among the options are flags, pictures and informative posters.

“We’re not hoping flags will be put in the building and we’re done, racism solved,” Owens said. “We are saying for those who are never represented, these are bigger steps than might be perceived than if (white students) are working through the building.”

The survey will be posted on the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

“We’ll be circulating it through the Westfield Parents for Change group,” Anderson said.

The survey will not be given to the schools directly but will results will be shared by Westfield Alumni for Change.

For the English survey:  forms.gle/zqz7DSHbDqAujhsF6, Spanish survey: forms.gle/6kRgxxWoTz2z2yyZ7 and Arabic Survey: forms.gle/623yDuGC8x4ftUMX8.


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