BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Luckie Daniels, the African-American parent of a Los Alamos High School student, is bringing attention to the Los Alamos Public Schools Equity Council and expressing concern that no information or history of its activities is publicly available, particularly to students and community members of diverse backgrounds.
Daniels lived in Taos for nine years before relocating to Los Alamos and was involved in the development of the Taos Charter School’s Equity Council in 2020. She is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Meow Wolf.
Equity Councils were established under the District Court decision in the Martinez and Yazzie consolidated lawsuit that ordered superintendents or executive directors to set up Equity Councils in their schools/districts. The Councils are District and Charter Equity Councils are advisories that focus on assisting school districts and charter schools with actions that are responsive to the Court’s order in the lawsuit and are mandated to serve Native American students, students with disabilities, students who are English learners, economically-disadvantaged students and students who are highly mobile.
Daniels first asked her daughter’s IEP team at LAHS if the school has a functioning Equity Council as mandated by the state and where she would find information regarding the LAPS Equity Council’s focus and progress. Although the New Mexico Public Education Department established guidelines and goals for the Equity Councils statewide in 2020 there is no information posted on the LAPS website. The guidelines note that members of the Councils statewide should take care that the provisions of the Open Meetings Act are followed, particularly those relates to the establishment of a quorum.
The PED website states that the Councils were to complete a readiness assessment by early February 2020, a district equity plan by early April 2020 and said Councils were to create and implement a culturally and linguistically responsive framework for schools by July 15, 2020.
On September 23, Daniels emailed Asst. Supt. Jennifer Guy noting that she wanted to explore the efforts of the LAPS Equity Council, but couldn’t find any information online except a flyer inviting people to join the Equity Council. Guy wrote back telling Daniels she would love to talk to her about Daniels’ work in Taos on the equity issue. Guy told Daniels she was looking for additional leadership on the LAPS Equity Council and that she would love to have Daniels involved as much as she would like to be. Daniels responded that it would be very helpful if Guy responded to her earlier questions and that she was gathering data. Daniels said she was gathering data and that establishing a baseline for where to begin is essential to her.
The questions Daniels submitted to Asst. Supt. Guy and the answered are presented below:
Daniels: Does LAHS have a functioning Equity Council, as mandated by the State of New Mexico, and if yes, where can I can find information regarding the Council’s focus and progress?
Guy: Yes, we meet the last Monday of each month. Dr. Delfin is in the process of rolling out a new website. Equity Council will have a page on the website.
Daniels: How is DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility) education/knowledge shared and/or introduced on the student and teacher level?
Guy: We are working on a district wide plan for this. We have addressed this through curriculum and teachers receive training annually. Let’s talk more about this in person.
Daniels: Does LAHS have someone working in an equity-centered capacity?
Guy: Yes, our healthy schools director, Caron Inglis, and our Native American Liaison, Julie Dare, and our Equity Council lead, Kristine Coblentz.
Daniels: Who at LAHS or on the District level would be my point of contact for follow-up?
Guy: At LAHS, please contact Principal Payne or Principal Johnson. Both are copied here. At the district level, I am your point of contact for now. Kristine Coblentz will return to the district on October 17. She can be a point of contact after that.
Daniels: Aside from a pdf, I don’t find any information online related to a functioning Council. Am I missing it? https://laschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/los-alamos-public-schools-equity-council.pdf
Guy: This is an issue with our current website but will resolve when we complete the transition to the new website.
Daniels: Is there a publicly accessible calendar that has Equity Council meeting dates and times posted?
Guy: Yes on the district calendar of events and in the Equity Council shared drive that I will add you to.
Daniels: Is there documentation/info online identifying participating Equity Council members?
Guy: Yes, in the Equity Council shared drive and on the new website as soon as it is working.
Daniels: Was there a Los Alamos School District Equity Council update included in the annual 2022 PED report? If yes, can you please share it with me?
Guy: I am not sure which PED report you are referencing. I am happy to provide you with anything we have reported. Let’s talk about this when we meet.
On receiving the email from Guy, Daniels responded expressing her concern at how the dialog started, noting that she found it inacceptable that as a parent in the LAPS district she is being told to wait for a website launch to access the equity activities in her daughter’s school district. She said she was disappointed in the LAPS, that it not only reflects an absence in understanding how to approach equity engagements, but speaks to real challenges in providing it to her.
During continuing email exchanges, Supt. Delfin told Daniels that as a person of color himself, he understands that she needs answers to her question and that he would prefer to see her in person. Daniels responded that nothing she had requested in respect to LAPS equity activities should be considered confidential or non-public facing.
“To provide me with information privately is unfair to other parents and students in the LAPS District. Why are there no shareable, equity-centered, historical documents and/or activities available,” Daniels said.
Delfin responded that he has no desire to be “opaque”. “Nevertheless I would prefer to meet with you in person because responses on emails can be misconstrued,” he said. He went on to ask Daniels to be patient with him until they meet. Daniels responded that after 10 days and countless email communications, she had received not one artifact of any kind related to LAPS equity activities.
“This is not a matter of being misconstrued. This is a telling reality in and of itself,” Daniels said. She said that can be misconstrued is that gets discussed privately and left undocumented and that sharing existing LAPS equity-centered documentation would be the solution to prevent a misinterpretation.
At this point, Daniels opted to speak public comment at the school board’s October 11 and October 27 meetings. On October 11, she told the board that if she as a person of color with a child in the district, is asking questions related to what the equity work looks is, who’s involved in the decision-making, what you are actually looking at as a strategy, what’s involved, how can I get involved, “the district should at the very least be courteous enough to provide me with an answer”.
“But instead, I received thread after thread of non-responses, even from Mr. Delfin, who told me that he could not send me any historical documents or artifacts or meeting minutes or any information about who was even involved, because he did not want the information to be misconstrued and that I needed to have a private conversation with him about the equity measures,” Daniels. She left the board with copies of 10 pages of communications showing how many times she had asked her questions and been ignored.
“What I’m saying to you in this district is that my daughter is a sophomore in your school. She will graduate from Los Alamos High School. I am an advocate with 30 years of experience, actually working with marginalized communities in New Mexico for 10 of those. Until those questions get answered I will continue to escalate my concerns because it is unacceptable and if you want to understand what inequity or the lack thereof – that is inequity, because I don’t think that has been the treatment for every parent in this district. I think it’s something that’s unique to me. I don’t want information about race, I want information about the work you’re doing in this community that is wrapped around state-mandated equity measures,” Daniels told the board
At the October 27 board meeting Daniels told the board that over the past few weeks she had attended a school board meeting and a district Equity Council meeting
“I am pretty alarmed as an African-American parent at this district not to see more representation by parents of color. I think there is ownership on those parents to be active. I also have found a challenge with engaging the administration. For instance the equity meeting that I attended, I was never invited to, even though I requested the link, I requested the invitation for four weeks consistently, I was never added to that invite. I didn’t even know that there was a meeting until an hour before that meeting. Dr. Delfin, I would appreciate it if you would pay attention to what I’m saying because I am really addressing you and Jennifer Guy most of all,” Daniels said. “Part of the challenge for parents in this district is to not understand how to engage the school board. When I entered the Equity Council room, it primarily was educators, white female educators from the district. There were a couple of parents, there were a couple of people of color, but predominantly the Equity Council did not represent equity, and what troubles me the most is that they were moving forward on an agenda that had been discussed in March. They had not resumed since March 2022 and they were addressing an agenda about the work moving forward and I came to understand that the work is actually to inform the board.”
“The challenge with that is that if you don’t have inclusive decision-making, if you don’t have inclusion of parents and students and community members of diverse backgrounds, whatever your agenda it’s ill-informed. You have to make a better effort at being inclusive. You have to make a better effort at engaging parents. You must focus on diversion and inclusion in every way, in every intersection that it shows up in because if you have a room of white administrators in enacting policies, those are informed by the lens that you’re looking through and they don’t include everyone and you must acknowledge that and take some actions to correct it,” Daniels said.
Since the October 27 meeting, Daniels has submitted a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act for the following documents:
- Los Alamos Public School Equity Council related communications and activity updates provided to the New Mexico Department of Education, 2020-2022
- LAPS Equity Council Member Roster, 2020-2022
- LAPS Equity Council Meeting Minutes, 2020-2022
- LAPS Equity Council Workgroup historical documentation, 2020-2022
- Presentation deck and referenced historical materials shared during the Equity Council meeting held Monday, October 24, 2022
- Any additional historical and current information capable of providing insight to the LAPS District’s equity-centered activities, periods 2020-2022
Supt. Delfin told the Los Alamos Reporter Thursday that the district is compiling the records requested and that Daniels should receive them by Nov. 16.