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Bozeman’s public schools are creating an Equity Task Force to look into what more schools should do to promote “a culture free of bias and racism” so that every student can succeed.

The 20-member task force will begin meeting in September, Superintendent Bob Connors told the school board this week.

The task force will advise school leaders and recommend changes to promote equity, diversity and inclusion for minority groups, including racial minorities and other minorities. It will look into closing achievement gaps and promoting respect for all individuals.

Connors said after seeing what’s going on around the country, school leaders wanted to take a closer look at what’s going on in Bozeman.

We may not have as large a non-white population as other communities, he said, but Montana does have racial minorities, particularly Native Americans from the seven reservations, and Bozeman schools often educate the children of Indian parents attending Montana State University.

The task force can consider culture and gender orientation as well as race, he said.

“We want to make sure we’re accommodating and listening,” Connors said. “We want to see where we’re falling short as a district.”

Connors said as a 57-year-old white male, he hasn’t had the same experiences others have had.

“Hopefully I will learn and we’ll be able to become a better district and I’ll be a better person,” he said.

School board trustees thanked Marilyn King, deputy superintendent for instruction, for organizing the task force.

“I’m very supportive,” said School Board Chair Sandy Wilson. Providing an equitable education, she said, “for all our students so they can succeed” is at the forefront of the Bozeman School District’s goals.

“I’m really glad to see this,” Trustee Gary Lusin said.

Trustee Douglas Fischer said it was great to see administrators take on the issue, when they have so much going on already. He said he appreciated the emphasis on listening.

The task force will hold community listening sessions. In its first year it will come up with an equity plan recommending actions that should be taken, and in the future meet every quarter to monitor progress.

It will work on putting new goals in the school district’s long-range plan, reviewing student performance and behavior data, hiring a more diverse workforce, improving curriculum, creating partnerships with students and families, recommending diversity training for teachers and staff, building alliances with community groups and helping school employees and families understand equity and social justice.

The task force members will include eight community members or parents, three school administrators, three members of the BEA teachers union, one classified employee, and five students. Also participating will be two trustees, the superintendent and three deputy superintendents, with King serving as task force chair.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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