WESTBROOK — A months-long initiative with the goal of ensuring that all students in Westbrook are afforded equal opportunities at school has already has brought about some change, the superintendent says.

“It’s about looking at our schools and ourselves in the mirror through a lens of equity and opportunity to see if we are providing all we can for all our students and if we are confronting any barriers that may exist,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said.

Much of the initiative, which Lancia describes as a “call to action,” took the form of workshops where staff discussed challenges in the field of education in regards to race, gender and economics.

As a result of the district’s work, a co-teaching approach is now be is being used to make classrooms more inclusive for English language learners. Lancia said plan is to make the approach more widespread among the city’s schools in the future.

“We are also looking at the curriculum itself, looking at our course blueprints and looking at whether we are teaching a balance and if we are teaching literature that’s from a diversity of authors and writers,” he said.

The school is also looking at ways to make healthcare more accessible for students.

Without easy answers, Lancia said, the initiative will continue. He also plans to involve the community.

“This isn’t a one and done, I was upfront with the leadership, this is the beginning of something bigger and not just a flavor of the day. Its something that’ll be healthy for us. We have to walk our talk and make sure this continues, and part of that initial plan is around what point can we involve the community, and how we will do that,” Lancia said.

Work by the staff and administrators culminated in an Equity Summit last month at the Community Center. The convention brought together school officials, family members, city officials, housing officials, members of the immigrant community and Police Department representatives.

“I was able to attend a part of it and found that the efforts of the summit were well received,” Mayor Mike Foley said. “I spoke with members of the community and found that many people from the immigrant community felt welcome in Westbrook.”

Foley said he thinks that’s because Westbrook has always had an immigrant community because of the paper mill, which ” brought in workers from all over.”

“The summit brought a lot of people together,” he said.


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