The Special School District engaged the Cambio Group for the 2017-2018 school year. Their team is instrumental in reinforcing the need for educators and staff at SSD in Saint Louis to embrace change at the kick-off of the school year. In spite of the break most of us enjoyed over the summer, there remains a lingering sense of tension in our town. We are all familiar with protests and some senseless property damage that has occurred. Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. Justice. There is a lot divisiveness still just below the surface here and across America.

As the year is unfolding, the Cambio team met with the paraprofessionals on a scheduled professional development day on October 13 (Yup, Friday the 13th). We assembled in the newly built forties hall of the Neuwoehner High School. Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields sets a tone for the session and his colleagues assure a seamless exchange of ideas. There are ice breakers and exercises to generate dialogue. There are moments, pregnant pauses, reflections, bonding and just a bit of wonder as to what might come of this two-hour scheduled meeting.

The Cambio Group works with a specific focus on action and success and they promise to distill some of the thinking that is generated this afternoon. This is not a gripe session or an angry mob or a town hall meeting. It is an opportunity. It is important to recognize some of the things that still divide us. A shared sense of mission must bring us together. We have a strong sense of purpose but we can be better. For this, we must strive. We appreciate the remarkable organization of which we are a part but at the same time strive for ideals.

A quick turn-around follow up to ALL via e-mail from the principal declares the following commitment and action: 100% of staff will increase awareness and understanding of cultural competence and equity by receiving physical and intellectual resources, from the equity team monthly, that impact students and/or staff as measured by a baseline questionnaire given at the beginning of November and reassessed in May.

I am hopeful for Ubuntu – the intersection between trauma informed practice, self-care, and leadership for equity. Thank you, Dr. Shields and Cambio (Especially Tia and Marina).

Wes Morgan is a paraeducator at Neuwoehner High School, He expects to complete his Master of Arts Teaching Special Education degree at Fontbonne University in 2019.