Transforming Education for Social Justice Regional Initiative

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Transforming Education for Social Justice Regional Initiative

The Transforming Education for Social Justice Regional Initiative, funded in large part by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, was designed to equip and support PK-12 educators to create learning environments that support engaged and empowered learning for all young people in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) is uniquely positioned to provide critical support to school districts in Western Massachusetts working to reduce equity and opportunity gaps. Social justice and equity work equips educators and administrators with new insight into how discrimination and oppression impact young people in schools.

This initiative sought to create a space for important thinking, building the skills needed to begin transforming schools, and developing a network of partnerships and resources that can support schools to address racism and intersecting forms of oppression that interfere with young people's learning, wellness, and opportunity.

The initiative involved three complementary components, intended to extend the reach of our October 2016 Transforming Education for Social Justice conference, and the subsequent monthly Social Justice and Equity in Schools Professional Learning Community.

  • Follow-up Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden County Social Justice and Equity in Schools "Gather-ins", that expanded this community building to a larger audience. Each regional gather-in developed goals for implementing youth-centered social justice practices in schools. On June 5, 2017, the initiative hosted a full-day workshop for school district teams focusing on creating relational school culture that can encourage and sustain equitable and affirming environments for marginalized youth.
  • Through the initiative, CES also sought to deepen our agency's capacity in social justice through a two-day "Leadership for Social Justice" workshop designed to provide a framework, process, and strategies for coaching CES staff and consultants around social justice-related issues. This leadership workshop was facilitated by Dr. Barbara Love and Dr. Russell Vernon-Jones.
  • Finally, CES offered a series of workshops to develop the capacity of educators to notice, name, and respond to, and transform issues related to racism (and other "isms") in the Greenfield Public Schools (GPS). This series served as to pilot a process that other districts can use to address racism in their schools.

Experience and literature in this field show that transformative social justice work is not effective as a one-time event. It requires long-term commitment and attention to be sustainable. This is why we seek to deepen and scale up our work, in order to create a sustainable support network for educators and schools in the region who are committed to furthering social justice in education and to begin transforming schools collaboratively and with restored hope.

Leading this work on behalf of CES are:

Safire DeJong
Dr. Safire DeJong is Co-chair of the Social Justice and Equity Initiative at CES. She is a researcher, educator, and consultant focusing on social justice education, intergroup dialogue, technology in education, and digital citizenship. 
Sherry Smith

Sherry L. Smith, M.Ed., has been the CES Director of Special Education for 15 years. She is also Co-chair of the Social Justice and Equity Initiative at CES. 

Darnell Thigpen Williams photo
Darnell Thigpen Williams, M.Ed., is Associate Director of Professional Development at CES for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) Education Contract, and brings over 20 years of urban education experience.

Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts logo - graphic of fern unfurling
This Initiative was supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, funded through the M. Constance Breck Memorial Fund, the Franklin Fund, and the Buxton Charitable Foundation Fund, Bank of America, Trustees at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.