Education & Inclusion – Ep.37

Becoming Agile – Ep.36
November 17, 2021
Empowering Diversity – Ep.38
December 8, 2021

Jacalyn Davis explains her work as coordinator of equality and access and how her position impacts DEI within the Manteca, CA community. 

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to The Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

All right. So this week I am super excited to have Jacalyn Davis with me. She is one of those people that I have to say, she has so much energy in her body that I don’t even know how she sleeps at night. So I’m super excited to have you. And I’m so happy at the work that you’re doing in the school district. But I normally start off and just ask people, how did you get to where you are?

Jacalyn Davis:  So first I have to say, I rarely sleep at night. And I don’t know how I have so much energy.

Melyssa Barrett:  That makes sense now.

Jacalyn Davis:  Yeah. So I was a teacher for nine years, main land Tracy. And then I had gotten my administrative credential knowing at some point I wanted to be a school administrator, but not until my kids were out of the house. And then all of a sudden in about 2014, I felt like I was ready for growth, for change. And so I said, I’m going to just start looking. I absolutely love being a classroom teacher. I love my job. I love my district, but I’m going to look, which is a good way to look at it as opposed to being miserable and trying to get out. So I applied for a vice principal position within Manteca Unified School District. And I got it. I was the vice principal at a school, a large diverse K eight school, actually in Western Ranch for three years.

And then the principal made the decision to retire. I made the decision to apply, and I fortunately got the position at the same site, which is a blessing. Because I knew the staff. I knew the culture, I knew the climate, I knew the families. And so I became the site principal where I sat for four years. Very happily, crazy busy, but I love it. Very multifaceted, loved it. But I got wind that my district was going to be doing some restructuring. This was around February, and that a new position was going to be created, the coordinator of equity and access. While when you’re a very happy principal but you’re passionate about certain things you absolutely are interested. And so the board had to approve it. It went before our school board, I believe in March and April. And then once it opened, I applied did my research and I got the position.

Melyssa Barrett:  Awesome.

Jacalyn Davis:  Yeah.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s awesome. Coordinator of equity and access.

Jacalyn Davis:  That is correct.

Melyssa Barrett:  So tell us what that means, what are you, what do you do?

Jacalyn Davis:  I do. Okay. So I do a lot, as do other people within my district, but if you look at the formal job description or the things that I’m responsible for, I have over site over Manteca Unified’s migrant education program. And so we have students who live in the migrant camps and French camp. I oversee that program. And we have an Indian education program. I oversee that program. I coordinate, along with others within my district, we work on social emotional supports for our students. So looking at our TK six based curriculum in SEL, our seven through 12 SEL curriculum and making certain that if sites and or teachers are not trained, that we provide the training for them. Whether it’s coming out to their sites or I’ve created like a little training module that they could get in and log in. And then just looking at resources that sites need to support the students. And it’s amazing. There’s another teacher on special assignment that works alongside me. And she’s amazing. So it’s not just a one person position. That part of it is not just one person.

I, on a regular basis actually on a monthly basis, I’m pulling discipline data. I’m looking at suspensions and I highlight based upon gender, ethnicity, all of those good things. And then I share that data, I look at it obviously. I highlight some points that stand out, that are inequitable for example. And then I send those over to my executive directors. And then if they need to follow up with certain administrators where there seems to be a pattern of something going on then that is looked at. And then right now I’m working with the Manteca Unified student school board members, because some of our, well at all of the high schools, there was some frustration with the dress code. Some of the students feel as though it’s sexist. Some of the students feel as though it’s outdated. And so I’ve been working with the students. They’ve been leading, it’s been actually really empowering, they have been, our executive director, asked all of the high school principals to work with their student board members to lead interactive meetings at their sites.

And so it’s not just adults dictating a program. It’s watching these young adults grow as leaders. And so I’ve been able to attend all of those. And then now what’s going to happen starting next week, we will take all of the information from the different sites that the students have collected. And then we are pulling sample board policies. We are going to be looking at some proposed changes to the verbiage in the policy. And then hopefully in the month of December we’ll take those changes before our school board to see if some of these changes that we feel need to happen, happen.

I just got finished working on looking at our retention policy. So doing some work on that. Teachers know, so if there’s some situa- or administrators, excuse me. If there’s been an instance that came up recently where a teacher, a parent reached out to her and expressed that, well, she asked, what are you going to be teaching for Thanksgiving? She’s a native American mom. And she was heavily offended by what the teacher was going to be instructing on. And so I worked with her and we have outreach assistants in our district. We have one that works at the district level and there’s four sites that have hired outreach assistants and they’re working on bridging the parent onto the campus. And so I oversee our outreach assistants and I do a lot more. And it’s not escaping me right now, but that’s-

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow. Well, that’s enough.

Jacalyn Davis:  It’s really-

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s enough to keep you busy for sure.

Jacalyn Davis:  That’s an understatement. That’s quite a bit, but I love it. Oh my gosh, I neglected to mention that I oversee our equity task force that just got started. I’m super excited. So pre Covid, my executive director of elementary education indicated the district was going to be starting an equity task force. And I said, you know I have to be on it. And she said, of course. We had one meeting with an equity consultant and then COVID hit. And last year was just so unique. And so one of the things that I get the honor of doing is overseeing our equity task force. We sent out the application, it was open for about three and a half weeks. And I’m super excited. We now have 21 people on this task force, comprised of classified staff, certificated staff, students, community members, and parents. And then our first official meeting with our task force will be on November 30th. And we’re going to develop an action plan and do great work and look at data and all the good things so that I’m excited about.

Melyssa Barrett:  See, you can feel the energy.  I love it. I love it. Well best for last, that’s how it goes.

Jacalyn Davis:  Love it.

Melyssa Barrett:  And I’ve seen there’s a lot of, the position that you are in, I see a lot of districts in academia creating positions that are taking on these types of functions. And it sounds like, with all of the things that you’re doing and the areas of responsibility, there’s no lack of things to do.

Jacalyn Davis:  No.

Melyssa Barrett: What kind of a difference does pulling this position make, do you think, as you go forward?

Jacalyn Davis:  Right. I think it speaks volumes. As a district, I should say, I work for an amazing district. And sometimes what you see, Melyssa, is teachers, students, parents feel as though things need to happen and then the district is like, no. Our school board, two of our school board members actually started doing equity work a few years ago. Then they came onto a campus to do some training on equity. And they selected my campus because it was so large and diverse. And then it was the school board that decided to create this position. Which is a great place to be because I don’t have to beg or fight or let’s, we need to. They already know that it needs to be done. And so there’s such power in that.

And really the goal is what needs to happen for each individual student. If we’re looking at data, if we know our kids by name, if we know our kids by needs, and we’re not just generalizing. It’s just like an instruction. You teach a lesson, not everybody’s going to get it. Melyssa is going to get it the first time. Maybe I might get it the second time. So, and so might get it the 30th, I don’t know, but we have to identify what our kids need. And so when you have a system that knows that and is focusing on it and that’s the message that’s being reinforced, it’s a great place to be. Because they support my work as I’m supporting our students.

Melyssa Barrett:  And how simple is that? We need to find out what our kids need.

Jacalyn Davis:  I know.

Melyssa Barrett:  Every unique child has a need.

Jacalyn Davis:  And that’s what we say. And I also, one of the other things I’m newly over is our PBIS program, which is our positive behavioral interventions and support. So that’s another thing too, and it’s not just academic. There’s that social emotional piece. There’s the behavioral piece. If students are hungry, stressed, if somebody has just died, they’re not learning. And so all of the steps that we’re taking, and that’s the part of knowing the whole child so that we can support them so that they can learn what they’re supposed to learn. And so all of these-

Melyssa Barrett:  I love that.

Jacalyn Davis:  Components that we’re putting together. And it’s a work in progress. My first official date was July 1st and the to do list is huge. But the whole system knows that’s what we’re working on. We’re going in that direction for our individual students.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s fantastic. So what do you think some of the most significant challenges are that you’ve seen so far? Or maybe..

Jacalyn Davis:  Okay. Yeah. That’s a great question. So I’ll say probably time. I think that right now, we’re rolling out a whole multi tiered systems of support. District wide, we’re doing some really great, amazing hard work. Teachers are tired. Educators are tired. It’s COVID, it’s stressful. And then across our United States, not just Manteca Unified, not just Tracy Unified, not just the Central Valley, not just California, student behaviors are absolutely up. They just are because our students have been at home for almost two years. And so you have fifth grade students who socially are third grade students. You have ninth grade students who are socially seventh grade students. On top of that there’s the academic learning loss. And so you have people that are working so hard, still in the midst of a pandemic. If you think about it we are back on campus, but we’re trying to support our students and our teachers with everything. So..

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow.

Jacalyn Davis:  Time and stress. And it’s a lot.

Melyssa Barrett:  So are there things that parents, students, teachers can do? And this is more of a broad question, not specific to the district. But you as an educator and certainly you’ve operated in the administrative capacity and in so many areas, you work in the community. Are there things you think people can do to help?

Jacalyn Davis:  We can. So in one of the structures that we’re rolling out is we’re calling it access time. And so built into every K through eight campuses day is a time where it’s like an intervention, but we’re trying to be preventative. And so if teachers are, we’re working on essential standards obviously that’s what we’re teaching. But if we’re identifying that students are behind in certain areas, there’s designated time during the day within the classroom that we’re supporting our students. We have valley community counselors. Some of the campuses have victor wraparound services. We notice if students have some behavioral concerns, we’ll work with them in social skills groups. And so it’s looking at utilizing our data to look at what our students need and then trying to provide those supports with all hands on deck during the school day.

And then our T excuse me, our seventh through 12th grade curriculum has a parent component that’s built in. So just say, for example, our student is vaping or they’re exhibiting some form of a behavior. There is a component that the parents can access at home. That’s that whole partnership piece. If they communicate with us and we know what’s going on, then we can say, let’s both be proactive to support the student.

I really think that it’s a constant reminder that we’re not in it alone. An individual teacher is not in it alone. And I know it does seem easier said than done. Because people are stressed, they’re exhausted. But it’s a constant reminder that we’re in it together. The district is here to support our sites. The work is still there and it’s still hard. And then just to communicate to parents that if they’re communicating with us, then whatever supports we have on campus or that we know of within the community, we can refer them to. And I know it’s hard because people are panicked and they’re tired and they’re stressed, but…

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, we need that. The teachers need that breath, just like the students need the healing, right?

Jacalyn Davis:  Sure and ironic that you say that. Because when I was principal at great valley, we had consultants come in and do training. We had trauma informed training and now, the consultants that we worked with are supporting my district district wide. And so we started the year off with the social emotional training on responding to trauma informed schools or becoming trauma informed schools. And when I brought it to my site, there was that component where we worked on the breathing exercises, and the yoga poses, and the importance of taking a few moments to focus on wellness when you’re transitioning. If they’re coming in from recess, give them a few minutes to breathe, do the exercises. If they’re energetic, they’re specific exercises. And so I did those as principals at my staff meetings because I wanted to model what they should model within their classrooms. And I would often have teachers that would volunteer to lead it to their peers for those that were a little hesitant. But we’re also bringing those things at the district level, focusing on the social, emotional, the wellness, we recognize an absolute need for it. So…

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow. That’s phenomenal. Because, I’m just going to say it, I know a lot of districts don’t do that. So it’s pretty awesome that here you have the ability to really incorporate that into the education. Because I would imagine with the pandemic, we’re probably not going to know how people have been affected by it for ages.

Jacalyn Davis: No, I agree. I absolutely agree. Yeah. And again, like I mentioned we also have parents that are willing to disclose what’s happening with their child and if they’re, we know certain things, we see it, it helps when they also disclose what’s going on so that we can provide layers of support for them.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. And I love, I keep going back to, we want to understand what our students need because that is just, the root of everything is how can we help? Right?

Jacalyn Davis:  I agree. And then just remembering that it’s going to be different for each child. So…

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back. Well, and that’s what’s so interesting to me because I think, especially in your position of equity and access, you have a lot of people saying with racial justice or whether it be social injustice or healthcare equity or whatever. People start to put folks in boxes.

Jacalyn Davis:  They do.

Melyssa Barrett:  I tell people all the time, they look at me and they may see black, but I’m also Latina, and there’s so many different complexities to each person.

Jacalyn Davis:  Right. I agree. And that’s something we focus on too. And I’m glad that you brought that up. We’re not just saying all Native American people, this, all of our migrant ed students, this, all of the black kids this. It’s not like that. It’s if we’re going to support each individual student, then we need to identify what the barriers are for those individual students and then provide them the support that they need. I’m in an equity leadership, an 18 month equity leadership program as well. And we talk about how all the time you can’t just say all the whatever. That’s not what it’s about.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. And it’ll be nice when we get to the point where everybody sees each other for who they are. Right?

Jacalyn Davis:  I agree. And I do. And I feel like we are in a place where we’ve never been before and the fact that these positions are popping up. I think last year in particular COVID and racial injustice brought upon some necessary changes. And it doesn’t mean that we didn’t before do what we could for each individual student. But I just think some changes needed to be made within our country. But I agree. I’ve been at two conferences in the last few weeks and I keep being approached by people either that are newly in the position like me and or how can I get this started at my district? And so it’s definitely a need.

Melyssa Barrett:  There’s so much more too.

Jacalyn Davis:  I’m quite looking forward to hosting some community forums for our parents. One of my huge to do’s is I want to get on those campuses. As I mentioned, I’ve been working with our school board members, but I want to get onto the Hispanic leadership groups, the black student unions, the AAPI group. All the groups, the LGBTQ, it’s not just… I just want to interact with all the students because there’s data right there hearing from them. So I’m going to start planning those very soon, but I love hearing their voice. It’s powerful.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. I love the fact that you were talking about how the students are advocating for themselves and really communicating what they need. Because I think with social media and with all the things that are going on with the digitization of America and the world.

Jacalyn Davis:  Everything right.

Melyssa Barrett:  It’s awesome to hear when things like communication skills. And that they are empowering themselves to really advocate for what they need.

Jacalyn Davis:  Yeah. Our students have, there’s been some concerns with dress codes. And one of my executive directors appealed to all of the high school administrators and asked them to have their student board members lead conversations and activities with their student board members. And I had the pleasure, we have five comprehensive high schools and I’ve attended four out of the five high school meetings. And it is so impressive. I love these young adults. And they facilitated these meetings. I just took notes. I was like, I’m not a facilitator I’m here as your guest. Thank you for inviting me. But they have facilitated these amazing meetings with their student bodies and have just done such a great job going through a democratic process. We will see what happens. But it’s been neat to watch them as leaders and just empower them through a process. So it’s good stuff.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow, that’s awesome.

Jacalyn Davis:  Yeah, that was one of my things when I left my school and my students were like, what do you mean you’re leaving? And I said, I will come and visit, but to be able to go from impacting a thousand, 1100 kids to 25, working with the entire district, it’s neat because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with the high school student board members and the students on those campuses and all the other campuses in our district. So I just find it a blessing because [inaudible].

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. And it’s so fun because one of the things that I spend a lot of time talking to corporate diversity officers about is that partnership between social impact and diversity, equity and inclusion. And now even sustainability in terms of how are we impacting the community in which we operate on a much more significant level. So I love the fact that you guys are being creative and doing that. You’re using evidence based quantitative metrics.

Jacalyn Davis: The data always has to be attached. We’re not just making stuff up.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right. Yes. Yeah. So that’s awesome. How are you all, or maybe you have some ideas in terms of measuring success for what you’re doing. Because I think sometimes it’s quantitative, but I think there’s also that qualitative aspect of it as well.

Jacalyn Davis:  That’s right, I agree. So for example, for my programs I have a big colorful white board. Some of my programs, so say for example the social emotional learning. We just provided some trainings for our high school administrators. And I will look at the usage pre and then post the training to see if there’s any growth or any increase in usage. They just had a training on the eighth a few days ago. And so I’m going to follow up with them and say, do you guys need additional trainings? What’s your plan to roll this out at your sites? And I get how difficult it is. But again, our job is to do what’s best for students. And so I’m going to be following up with them to see how I can support them. And even by looking at suspension data, then after the conversations have been had I run it every 30 days, then we need to look at and see, oh, okay, well then it’s gone down.

And if not then it might be something where a training needs to be put together. And I just spoke with my director the other day. And we talked about when we expel students, which is definitely on the decline from years past. But if you look at California ed codes, it’s a fight is five days, another fight’s 10 days, you’re expelled. And so what we want to do is build in some structures where we can at least say that, okay they got in a fight, but then we provided this intervention or prevention to the next fight that hopefully doesn’t come. But we can measure that. And I run the discipline data monthly and running the dress code data, I actually will run it. We’re just hitting the 60th day of school or maybe it’s the 30th, but every 30 days I run the data.

So I need to run September to, excuse me, October to November, to look at if the incidents, since we’ve been having these conversations have gone down. So that’s just a few examples. We also, my migrant kiddos are required to vacate the migrant camps from December 15th until March 15th. So in the past, they they got packets. They didn’t get instruction while they were gone. But now starting last year with COVID and we’ll do it again this year, we have a independent study program where they get access to a teacher while they’re in, some of our families go to Mexico. They have to vacate. And so while they’re gone, we providing them instruction and then we can look at pre and post data to see if they’re successful or not.

So one of our things, and I love about my district, is we are always doing monitoring for effectiveness. And if it’s not working, then what can we do to change it? And there’s a lot of collaboration that goes on between, especially my department or division in particular. And so we’re always looking at what we’re doing and if it’s effective and then what can we do to provide support so that the numbers move in a positive way for our students. And to weed out suspensions-

Melyssa Barrett:  Awesome.

Jacalyn Davis:  We’ve got to provide, they’re still kids. We got to provide. them some supports and some strategies and skills to not be out there fighting. [inaudible] different.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Jacalyn Davis:  So you’re not [inaudible] .

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. And sometimes that fight is not even about the fight. Right?

Jacalyn Davis:  That is correct. No, seriously. That is correct. That’s in a nutshell, some of the ways that we look at data. But that’s our charge, is what we’re doing. It does need to be evidence based. We need to be monitoring it and looking at our data.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s fantastic. All right. Well is there anything else that you want to add for the listeners today in terms of your work in DEI? Everybody, I think for me, DEI is everywhere you look.

Jacalyn Davis: It’s also in corporate, that it’s in education. Really just for me, it’s a new position. I’m super excited. And I obviously want to do amazing at all the things that I’m doing. And every time I hear one thing, it’s like, oh my gosh, now there’s this. So it’s very exciting. The number one thing is that of the stuff that we’re doing is to support our kiddos and supporting our teachers as they support the whole child. It’s just really not a one size fits all. And so I’m just excited to continue to do the work.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s awesome. Well we are so grateful and thankful for you in this position. You are doing wonderful things and we wish you continued success

Jacalyn Davis:  Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.