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WDMCS Students Connect With Equity Leads at Fall Retreat (11/02/2022)

Nov. 2, 2022 | West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) equity leads and district administrators met for shared learning and relationship-building on Sept. 29, 2022. Students from Valley Southwoods, Valley High School, and Walnut Creek Campus shared their experiences through a student-moderated panel and small groups. 

“(The) student panel was by far the best, biggest, and most important piece because that's really going to guide our work because that's really who we're here to serve,” Intercultural Outreach Coordinator Gianna Pugliese said. “Using these equity frameworks … and getting that student feedback is going to be instrumental in guiding us toward the right steps.”

Three photos of the fall equity retreat showing students talking with staff in small groups and Dr. Dau Jok speaking to staff

Each equity lead works with district leadership to guide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work at their building. 

Executive Director of DEI Dr. Dau Jok and Pugliese presented about transformative social and emotional learning and healthy boundaries to support the equity leads’ building-level work. City of West Des Moines DEI Director Audrey Kennis also spoke briefly with the equity leads.

“The equity leads retreat was an incredible opportunity to build community, to understand where we are, but more importantly to set conditions for the work ahead,” Dr. Jok said. “We have a lot of talented staff and student leaders. We want to make sure we’re supporting all aspects of our school communities.” 

The retreat was the first time in several years that equity leads were able to meet as a group in-person and have community with students. They will continue to collaborate during monthly meetings, as well as in elementary and secondary groups.

“The reason this work is so important to me is that I have a true belief that every student belongs in our building and belongs in our classroom,” Western Hills Elementary Equity Lead Grace McCune said. “(It’s) really important that we educate ourselves on these things so that students know West Des Moines is a place where they belong; West Des Moines is a place where they can and will succeed, and as educators, we will make sure of that.”

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