Three sessions of “Hey Bexley Let’s Talk Equity” discussed the “Nice White Parents” podcast, produced by The New York Times, between March 31 and April 15.
Coordinator of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement Steve Shapiro explained that these sessions operated like a book club, with the podcast serving as the book. Community members learned about matters of equity and inclusivity in school systems by listening to the podcast and discussing it, he said.
The podcast includes five episodes and follows the process of desegregation in a Brooklyn school during the 1960s, Shapiro said. He explained that the main focus of the podcast is equity and how parents can influence it within school systems.
The sessions were held over Zoom and were broken into three weekly conversations: the first about episodes one and two, the second about episodes three and four, and the third about episode five, he explained. He added that teachers, administrators, parents and other community members were able to attend the meetings at either 1:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m on Wednesday or 7:30 p.m. on Thursday each week.
The Zoom meetings included both small and large group discussions, Shapiro said, adding that he provided questions to help facilitate the conversation but did not lead it.
Shapiro explained that his goal as the coordinator of community engagement is to involve the community through more discussions like these rather than guest speakers.
“The idea of ‘Hey Bexley, Let’s Talk’ is not just having speakers or one way communication, but it is having conversations as a community,” he said.
Junior Claire MacDonald explained that she enjoyed listening to the podcasts and was eager to share her thoughts about it.
“I listened to the podcasts first over the summer, and I was really intrigued by them, so when the opportunity arose, I decided to jump on it and discuss the podcast with other listeners,” she explained.
MacDonald added that the podcasts influenced her to reflect on the parallels between the community in the podcast and Bexley.
“I thought that the podcasts were really enlightening, especially in a community that is predominantly white like Bexley,” she said.
Elementary school parent Jess Audey said she first learned about the event through a district email and signed up to learn more about equity. She added that she gained new perspectives and learned valuable information from attending the podcast discussions.
“I found the discussions really beneficial,” she said. “I think this is a very important topic to be cognisant about, and the more we openly discuss, recognize, call out and own racial inequities, the more we can start thinking about how to create the environment that is best for everyone.”
Shapiro explained that he thought the event was impactful because it consisted of many complex and honest conversations.
“I think these sessions were helpful at getting a lot of people in the community to reflect on issues of equity and to notice their own role in the creation of systems that are equitable or not to all students,” he said.
Audey said she feels the community would be positively impacted by more discussions like these.
“I think any time we take the time to truly see and empathize with an issue from another perspective is enormously beneficial,” she explained. “So often in our busy lives it is so easy to focus on what benefits us personally, both in the moment and in the future, that sometimes we forget to zoom out and see the bigger picture.”
Shapiro explained that he is hopeful that the school district can continue to work to educate the community on important issues and improve the school for all members.
“I’m excited about creating opportunities for people to come together, think together, learn together and be a part of expanding the quality of work we do in our schools,” he explained.