2020 Valuing Diversity Award winner Amy McNamara.
McNamara unafraid to address racial injustice
November 2, 2020
Name: Amy McNamara Award: Valuing Diversity Award
Title: Associate Superintendent, Administrative Services, Acalanes Union High School District
During the Acalanes Union High School District’s annual diversity summit, students confront difficult subjects head-on, such as the immigrant experience, the N-word, Islamophobia, queer culture and microaggressions. More than 150 students attend these annual summits aimed at creating a culture of inclusion.  This event was spearheaded by Amy McNamara, this year’s ACSA Valuing Diversity Award winner.  Since joining the district in 2015, McNamara has been
unafraid to tackle new projects, have difficult conversations and passionately focus on student climate
, so that all students feel welcome at the district’s schools. Each school site has an Equi-team of students and staff that plans professional development and organizes campus events to raise awareness. Districtwide diversity meetings allow all stakeholders to give feedback on curricular initiatives, hiring practices and student summits.  Through sustained professional development, including mandatory two-day workshops on racial injustice, teachers and staff can address equity issues with a common protocol and engage in conversations about needed change. McNamara also takes teachers to the National Summit for Courageous Conversations on Race and Equity to deepen their learning. 
To advance the district’s efforts, Amy partnered with Pacific Educational Group to secure trainers, speakers and guidance in building strong coalitions.  Her work has led to the inclusion of more authors of color in the curriculum and new electives that reflect an increasingly diverse student population, including an ethnic studies course and a senior English class focused on race and identity. With McNamara’s support in securing funding, the Black Student Unions at each of the four high schools were brought together last year at their first annual BSU summit.  Realizing that achievement gaps will persist if students don’t feel welcomed and affirmed, McNamara has made sure data is viewed through the lens of equity, so that under-performing students can receive interventions. McNamara’s leadership and courage in addressing institutionalized injustice have created powerful and lasting impacts on her district and community. These efforts have won the district praise from Pacific Educational Group founder and President Glenn Singleton. The district has also been featured in the East Bay Times, which last year wrote about how this white, mostly affluent district is confronting racism. “What I’ve learned about equity work is that it’s like turning an oil tanker in the ocean; it’s going to take time, pressure, persistence,” McNamara was quoted as saying. “Don’t expect it to happen overnight, don’t expect there not to be racial incidents that continue to happen in our schools. But are we better today and equipped to talk about race? Yes.”
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