After racial tensions at school districts in our area, NewsChannel 5 wanted to see how other districts approach the issues of race, class and the achievement gap.
The Clayton School District opened its doors, and talked about its approach. Some of the most powerful discussions are starting with the students themselves.
Camille Respess is the editor-in-chief of The Globe, Clayton High School’s student-run newspaper. For the latest issue, Respess and her classmates decided to investigate the topic of race and housing in St. Louis.
“They talk about the Delmar divide in St. Louis and how segregated our neighborhoods are,” Respess said. “I think conversations about race are really important because a lot of people think that it’s not an issue that needs to be talked about anymore because it's 2016.”
Administrators agree. They encourage students and staff to have an open dialogue.
“We have a responsibility as a school district to teach our kids the ways to provide effective leadership in the future, so we have a society that is equitable in all areas,” said Greg Batenhorst, the Clayton School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Student Services.
Batenhorst said the district is focused on closing the achievement gap and working toward solutions on the district level, and also in the classroom.
“For us, the achievement gap is defined by race and socioeconomic lines and we're having some very powerful conversations with our parents and staff on how to improve the achievement for all our students,” Batenhorst said. “It's a deep dive into our curriculum, into the instructional practices our teachers are involved in.”
It’s also about creating an atmosphere in which students can write and talk about the difficult issues that affect their schools, and their communities.
“Whatever we write, the principal or administration doesn't sensor that, so we use that opportunity in a very positive way. that allows us to write stories that are conversation-starters,” Respess said.