Topeka 501 asks parents to join racial conversations

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka School District 501 says it’s putting “race on the table” – and need to diversify its staff and faculty.

“We do not have enough teachers of color,” said Tammy Austin, district 501 assistant superintendent.

In a growing culturally diverse community, Austin says – that’s becoming a problem.

Topeka 501 believes its staff is too white and could be the reason why children of color aren’t performing at a rate as high as their white peers.

“A lot of kids of color probably feel that because they are being taught by predominantly white educators and that they don’t see themselves in the classroom,” said Austin.

Now the district wants to do something about it, with the first step starting with the parents.

“We need more of all races so everybody will be able to see themselves in somebody who is actually successful so that they can feel like they have the potential to be successful one day themselves,” said Shavon Pace, a 501 parent.

The assistant superintendent says the district would like to host “affinity groups”. Groups of parents from all different backgrounds (including African Americans, Hispanic, Native American and Asian) where they all can come together to speak about their experiences in the district.

“What we want to do is put race on the table every time to see if it’s impacting,” said Austin.

The district also plans on holding “equity walks” where parents can walk through the schools and see if the faculty population reflects their student population.

In the mean time though, school officials say they look forward to having parents be a part of discussions about equity and race — “their input is important at the table.”

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