The Effort to Improve Equity in LCPS

In July of 2019, Superintendent Eric Williams elevated Dr. Lottie Spurlock to the new position of Director of Equity for Loudoun County Public Schools, establishing the Office of Equity. Then on August 3rd, 2020 Dr. Traci Townsend was tapped to be Spurlock’s Equity Supervisor.  Both moves were part of a broader effort to address inequality in public schools. The creation of the Office has also been the subject of controversy in the LCPS community.

What is not always clear to people is the definition of equity and what that means in a school system. “We certainly want each and every student in LCPS to achieve at his or her highest ability, and we want to be able to meet the needs of every student in LCPS. So in order for students to achieve and to reach their highest potential, we have to be able to support that student and meet the student’s needs,” Townsend said.

Spurlock said about her vision for an equitable LCPS, “Imagine a school division where every student is able to succeed and achieve and just meet those expectations. It’ll be amazing. It’ll be awesome. So that would be equity.” 

“We talk about professional learning that still needs to occur for teachers and leaders, and what impact it will have on students,” said Dr. Spurlock of how she plans to improve fairness for students in the school system. Spurlock also noted a couple important issues to address, including a lack of diversity among district faculty, and disparities with the use of discipline. 

The Office put together an action plan to address systemic racism, developed an equity assessment, and assigned “Equity Leads” to each school that work to support the Office’s work at the school level. Dr. Townsend said of her time so far, “I see people in different departments, I see schools, different schools, I see, I really do, everyone doing the work. It is awesome, the way people come together and collaborate.” 

Appointed in July of 2019 to her current position, Mrs. Spurlock had previously served as principal of Rolling Ridge and Cardinal Ridge elementary schools, and assistant principal of Guilford Elementary, all in LCPS. Prior to working in Loudoun, Mrs. Spurlock served as assistant principal at A.P. Hill Elementary, and coordinator of the communities in School Program at Chalkley Elementary School in Chesterfield County. Dr. Townsend previously worked in Montgomery County, having taught and coached at Gaithersburg High School, Kennedy High School, Early Wood Middle School, and Silver Creek Middle School.

Townsend continued, “[I] just saw the collaboration of the people who were doing the work in the Department of Instruction, who were doing the work in the department of people services, you know the MTS folks, everyone working together to ensure that students were getting what they needed regardless of what department they’re in.”

LCPS has faced accusations of racism in the past, including an incident at an Elementary School in February of 2019, in which students played a “runaway slave game” for Black History Month, which caught the attention of the local chapter of the NAACP. The Attorney General of Virginia recently completed an investigation into the admissions process at the Academies of Loudoun (AOL), the county’s magnet school. Virginia AG Mark Herring and his office concluded that there was “reasonable cause” to believe that LCPS had discriminated against students of color during the admissions process for AOL.

The Office of Equity has also attempted to reach out to students by creating a ‘Student Equity Ambassador Program’. “What we were trying to do is meet with secondary students, middle school, and high school students from every school building, to hear about their experiences, to hear about, to hear their voices, and respond to their voices,” Dr. Townsend said. “We’re gathering names now.” This is the first year the Office has conducted the program, and the Office is working with schools to set up meetings with students.