Mehlville takes a look at equity and inclusion


With parents and a student sitting behind him socially distanced, Mehlville Superintendent Chris Gaines presents bond issue information to the Board of Education, including conceptual drawings, at the Oct. 15, 2020, board meeting held in person at the Mehlville High School Library. The presentation was ‘very thorough,’ board President Kevin Schartner said. The meeting was also livestreamed.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

The Mehlville Board of Education is the latest school board in South County to add the book “Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity” to its members’ agendas.

Superintendent Chris Gaines said the book, written by Floyd Cobb and John Krownapple, principals of consulting company The Core Collaborative, was chosen because it can be applied to ideas in the district’s strategic plan — specifically character education work, the Portrait of a Graduate and the idea of safety through belonging. 

The district’s Portrait of a Graduate is a description of “traits” it wants students to graduate with: Creative and Critical Thinker, Self Aware, Persistent, Communicator and Ethical and Global Citizen.

“As we think about what we’ve read … how does it align with the long-standing work the district has done around education and how does it align with the work that we’ve been doing and continue to do around Portrait of a Graduate,” Gaines said. 

The board discussed chapter one of the book at its Aug. 19 meeting with several members giving an idea of what the chapter meant to them or its relation to ideas in the strategic plan.

Board member Larry Felton said the thing that stuck out the most to him was the “system thinking approach.”

“I thought it put into context what happens if you’re too simplistic or too surface driven as you look at a problem,” Felton said. 

Board President Kevin Schartner said he saw the opposite while reading. He said it’s important to not overcomplicate a problem and introduce too many steps to its solution.

Members of the Lindbergh BOE read the book over the summer as part of an increased focus on diversity and equity. The board added several staff workshops in relation to the book’s ideas, including a virtual workshop with the book’s authors. The move was met with a mix of resentment and support from the district’s parents, as some felt diversity and equity should not be at the top of the district’s priorities.