Kenowa Hills creates position focused on diversity, equity, mental health

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WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — Kenowa Hills Public School leaders are focusing again on mental health and diversity. District officials created a new position to continue conversations that came to the forefront during the pandemic. 

“When our board of education established its priorities, certainly diversity, belonging, equity, inclusion was one of those priorities and mental health was another,” said KHPS Superintendent Gerald Hopkins. 

The board of education adopted an equity policy last December and from those conversations, Hopkins said the idea came to hire someone focused on the goals outlined in that policy.

Brooke Davis, who has been with the district for the past five years was hired for the role. 

“[Davis] came as a part-time social worker and then when she became full-time for the district, part of her role is social work and part of her role was supporting our behavior supports for our district. So, we had had the opportunity to learn from Brooke and the expertise that she brings and so when this position became available, she was the first person that we thought of,” Superintendent Hopkins said. 

The board’s equity policy has 15 desired outcomes, including identifying biases and raising awareness about the impact of mental health on performance. Davis also has some goals of her own. 

“The biggest goal for me, because this is a lot of work in that it can be a heavy lift in that we have to make sure we’re getting everybody included in this work. So not just our staff, as well as our central office, our administrators, but making sure we’re hearing from our students and our families and the community. You can’t move a system or an organization without those things in place,” Davis said. 

By the end of the school year, Davis hopes to have started exposing families and students to these topics, adding that she wants to hear from those students and understand how they’re feeling in school and what they think teaching should look like as it relates to equity. 

“I really want people to feel comfortable having these conversations and even if you have a view that you don’t feel like it’s a like-minded view, I want people to know that this office is very open to you coming in and sitting down and talking about it. This transition and people’s values can be tough, but I want people to know that it’s not about my personal values myself, but it’s about really 
creating best practices for kids.”

Davis said with fluctuating mental health in students, influxes in inpatient hospitalizations among the LGBTQ plus population, and higher suicide rates in Michigan, she wants to make sure the district is creating spaces where students can thrive academically, as well as emotionally.

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