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El Paso County Colorado District 49

FROM THE CEO

In almost every measure of diversity, Falcon School District 49 is more diverse than it has ever been, and less diverse than it is going to be. Our growing diversity is a source of strength and an opportunity to build our capacity for welcoming and inviting all types of people to be their best.When I was growing up in remote Alaska, it never occurred to me that a culture could be anything but diverse. I lived among Alutiq, Inupiat, Pacific Islanders, Scandinavians, Filipinos, Texans and the most exotic of all, Californians! Something about surviving on the last frontier brought us all together, and we lived and worked as if our differences didnít matter. When I sit down for dinner with my extended family, Iím joined by Amhara, from Ethiopia; Inupiat, from Northern Alaska; Tsimshian, from near British Columbia; and Tlingit, from Coastal Alaska; plus, my own contribution of Colorado-Californian heritage, and my beautiful African-American bride from the state of Texas.In my personal experience, cultural diversity is a given. But many of us grew up in other settings. We learned a way of talking and eating and relating that made sense and kept us comfortable. Some of us learned traditions and rituals from a particular ethnic heritage, and others developed strong regional preferences. What most of us didnít get, unless we moved a lot or lived overseas, was deep immersion in an unknown culture. We generally stayed with the familiar and known. As a result, the communities we build and the ways we relate tend to have a cultural character that prefers the familiar and comfortable. Thatís human nature. In new and growing places, we donít abandon our heritage ñ we recreate it. Thatís why there are so many ìNewsî around this hemisphere. From New Hampshire to Nuevo Laredo, we try to build something new out of references to our familiar past.District 49 is largely new and growing, so many of our traditions and symbols draw on a common heritage. We are building schools and homes that look a lot like the ones where we grew up. But some of our traditions and assumptions are not familiar and comfortable to everyone. Some members of our district family bring diverse perspectives and fresh expectations about life and learning. As we learn together, it can be energizing and unifying to learn about each other; but our differences can also create tension and conflict.Misunderstandings and insensitivity can undermine the unity we depend on to accomplish our strategic priorities. That is why we are taking on a Cultural Capacity Initiative to improve our district environment. Our goal is that District 49 will establish and nurture an organizational culture where learners, workers and leaders from diverse backgrounds have equal opportunities to thrive. Current stakeholders, as well as parents, students and educators who consider joining District 49, will increasingly recognize our district as a leader in cultural competence, sensitivity and diversity.Our Cultural Capacity Initiative has two major components. First, we will emphasize a component focused on talent and leadership to attract, develop and retain people who can improve our cultural capacity. Second, we become more intentionally engaged with our community around cultural issues and opportunities.This initiative provides obvious support for two of our strategic priorities:Big Rock No. 3: Establish District 49 as the best district in Colorado to work, learn and lead.Big Rock No. 5 Customize our educational systems to launch each student toward success.We hosted our first Cultural Capacity Planning Forum at the end of October as we begin collaboration to improve the climate and cultural capacity of our district. Most of the great work in District 49 started with a large dose of community input. Please visit our district calendar at d49.org, or contact me for additional opportunities to join us as we learn and grow together in our Cultural Capacity Initiative.

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