POULSBO — The North Kitsap School District will provide cultural sensitivity training to district employees and establish a diversity/equity committee, Superintendent Patty Page said Feb. 19.
Sensitivity training is something the district did on a regular basis, but it has been a while since it was last done, Page said.
“It’s just time it becomes part of our practice,” she said.
District employees need to approach sensitive topics thoughtfully, instead of reactively, Page said.
District employees need to approach topics related to cultural sensitivity based on societal norms, she said. As educators, employees are held to a high standard, she said.
Providing training and establishing a new committee focused on diversity and equity follows an investigation that left Poulsbo Elementary School Principal Claudia Alves on paid leave.
The leave was not disciplinary. She went on administrative leave Jan. 21 and returned to work Feb. 18.
The school district notified parents via email Feb. 14 that Alves would be returning from leave and thanked interim principal Doug Wagner and others “for all of your efforts during Principal Alves’ absence.”
“Thrilled to be back,” she told the Herald Feb. 19. She did not want to discuss her leave, but said it was “business as usual” at the school.
Alves used the N-word to explain to an 11-year-old fifth-grader how the word “Negro” was not the same; the student and others had said they weren’t comfortable using the word “Negro” in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day play.
Alves said she never used the N-word to upset the student.
“I did use that word, and that word is upsetting. I thought in the context of what we were talking about, it was all right,” Alves said in a previous interview with the Herald.
She said she explained that what has been considered appropriate has changed over the years, but that word was never appropriate “no matter the period of time.”
Alves’ use of the N-word upset the student, who told his mother. The mother, Shawna Smith, called Alves, who in explaining what had happened, used the N-word again more than once.
Alves was advised by her superiors not use the word again, but when she called the Smiths to apologize, she used the word again. She was placed on administrative leave.
The boy’s mother said she didn’t want Alves to be fired, but said the district should offer cultural sensitivity training.
While on leave, Alves attended two “cultural responsive training” sessions with New Phase New Ways, consultants based in Central Kitsap. New Phase New Ways is run by Central Kitsap High School teachers and couple, JD Sweet and Elizabeth Blandin.
Sweet described the meetings with Alves as “professional discussion.”