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'Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging' program a buzz in Bangor schools

Bangor school officials are finding ways to address disparities and create pathways for the success of all students.

BANGOR, Maine — There's a lot of talk nationally on how to manage diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of American life.

While these issues are complex, school administrators in Maine are finding ways to address disparities and provide pathways to success for students from all backgrounds.

The Bangor School Department has adopted a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging program (DEIB). School officials reported that over the past two years, 20 percent of Bangor's student body is non-white, and that number is expected to increase as more immigrants and asylum-seeking families move into the state of Maine.

Raymond Phinney, director of community outreach and school safety with the Bangor School Department, said more of these migrant communities are coming to Bangor.

“Southern Maine has a lot of diversity and a lot of multi-lingual learners, but they've been coming to Bangor more and we are ready to accept them,” Phinney expressed.

The needs range from transportation and meals to language and cultural assimilation. The DEIB program is designed to find meaningful ways and resources to address those needs.

Phinney said the district now has four bi-lingual teachers to help with language and cultural assimilation.

"This idea of being inclusive where all our students have a reason to come to school is essential" Bangor School Department Superintendent James Tager stated.

Tager said the goal is to increase student participation in everything from classroom activities to extracurriculars, in hopes it will drive attendance rates up.

Dana Carver-Bialer is the DEIB coordinator for the Bangor School Department. She said the district established her department to address the disparity and mental health needs of its diverse student population. 

"We're really making sure students see their experiences reflected within their classroom, students feel that their families are celebrated, and students' needs are met. That's what equity is. It’s not assuming everyone needs the same thing but it’s really personalizing a student’s educational experience," Carver-Bailer implored. 

School officials said their goal in education for students is for them to feel celebrated and to achieve their dreams, both personally and professionally.

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