In Springfield Local Schools, the student population is more than a little diverse, and community members say the diversity is cause for celebration.
Parents, including those who are members of the Parent Diversity Council, are organizing a global diversity week Oct. 18-22.
"Springfield has a very diverse student population," said Superintendent Kathryn Hott, noting the idea of the Parent Diversity Council originated nearly three years ago from parents who were interested in the district's efforts to promote, support, and advocate diversity.
"Our mutual goals are to help students, staff, and parents demonstrate respect and for all to exercise personal responsibility through education, communication, collaboration, and celebration," she said. "Since that time, there has been consistent leadership from almost 10 families and many other parents who have demonstrated a commitment to PDC's mission. Springfield is a community rich in its diversity ... and our schools offer students the opportunity to learn with others from many different races, religions, abilities, and income levels. We believe this enriches and defines what the students refer to as 'the Springfield experience.'•"
April Roth, a parent active in the council, said the event "is a celebration" of the district's diversity. She said she welcomes the opportunity for her four children "to experience what Springfield has to offer with its diversity. I sure appreciate it."
Last year, a diversity map, based on a survey of students and parents, was displayed in Springfield schools, showing more than 60 students in the district were "foreign-born," she said, and more than 70 countries were represented in the student population through connections to birthplaces of parents.
"Having a Global Diversity Week is a chance to promote diversity in our schools and to educate our community about the diversity in our schools, and it's a chance to support and educate our families and offer assistance to our families within those different diversities," she said.
"Diversity goes far beyond the color of your skin. The color of your skin is obvious. It does not make you who you are," she said. "At Springfield, not only do we have many different ethnicities, but there are many different nations and cultures, and there are many children with difference abilities. It is a real world experience and we want to celebrate that and show it off."
Mrs. Roth is in charge of arranging for the booths that will be set up during the showcase. "Parents will have the opportunity to have a booth where they can showcase their culture," she said, and there will be nonprofit groups, vendors, and others with booth space.
Springfield's diversity also includes socioeconomics, she said, and the October event will provide parents with information about how they can receive assistance to address their needs, she said.
The Parent Diversity Council has been active for about a year, and this is its first event, said Carla Leonard, chairman of the organization. The council meets monthly at the district's administration office, 6900 Hall St.
Primarily, the district is diverse culturally, Mrs. Leonard said. "Ethnicity diversity is the most prevalent. That is what people see first, but we are diverse economically and special-needs abilities wise."
She said she likes to focus on the district's ethnicity diversity because that is "most of where we have issues. It goes back to why the council came about. We've had different racial issues, not like racial riots, but we have had certain issues come up. I think issues have been only addressed when there have been problems," she said, such as in the way a child or a parent is spoken to.
Other issues have cropped up in student interactions, and, too, she said "the issue may be that a teacher does not know how to address a student of another race."
The Parent Diversity Council was formed as a "proactive way to address" those issues, Mrs. Leonard said. "Our diversity is beautiful. We look at it as our strength."
Global Diversity Week will feature various activities for students, highlighted by five themes, such as "Speak No Evil." With that theme, "we are trying to teach our children positive speaking, not to tear others down," she said. Stickers can be earned for speaking in a positive manner, for instance, but "if they say something not uplifting, they could lose their stickers."
The public can attend a global diversity showcase from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 21 at Springfield High School, featuring student work, community organizations, performing arts, food, and more.