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This two-part episode out of a three-part series focuses on how one school district in Pennsylvania has moved to embed equity into its education practice. In part 1, Mr. Ken Nickson, the coordinator of educational diversity, equity and inclusion at Erie Public Schools transports us to the diverse city of Erie and its school district. In this discussion, he describes the steps Erie took to develop an equity program and strategic plan, specifically focusing on combating the negative impact of the school to prison pipeline on student opportunity, belonging, and achievement. This episode also features Dr. Heather Bennett, director of equity services for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.


Listen to Part 2 – Implicit Bias and the Struggles for Equity in the next episode.

Skip to: 01:05 Describe the city of Erie, and also the school district.
Skip to: 02:49 Can you tell us about the catalyst around introducing your role to the school district?
Skip to: 04:32 Describe some of the responsibilities of your role.

I look at myself as being a connection for the community and the city and the district in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Skip to: 08:18 How would you define equity?
Skip to: 11:12 What is the school to prison pipeline?

Restoring relationships is so important. And realizing that we really need to think about how our teachers are perceiving our kids.

Skip to: 16:34 What type of practices and steps are being implemented that helps to counteract that school to prison pipeline effect?

We’re focusing on the disproportionality in suspension/explosion rates which goes straight to the school to prison pipeline conversation.

We talked about implicit, unconscious and racial bias as an entire district.

Skip to: 20:31 Is there anything that stands out as a positive response or high accomplishment in your time in your position so far?

Ken E. Nickson, Jr., Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Erie Public Schools

Born and raised in Erie, PA, Ken Nickson, Jr. is a 1996 graduate of Central High School. He graduated from Clarion University of PA, in May 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, specializing in Elementary/Special Education. He earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership in 2006 from Gannon University and currently holds a Principal Certificate and a Superintendent Letter of Eligibility. His professional career began in Pittsburgh, during the final semester of student teaching for Clarion, when he was hired as an Emotional Support teacher and given his own classroom in Pittsburgh’s Public Schools. It was there that Ken began to fuse his formal education with his life experiences to impart knowledge and impact the lives of the 10 middle school aged boys under his tutelage. Since then, Ken has worked his 17-year career with Erie’s Public Schools in various roles including his current role as Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion always holding the education and empowerment of the student as an integral priority. Ken is married to his high school sweetheart Tica, who also works for their school district as a Student Parenting Case Worker, Birth Doula, and Lactation Consultant. Together they have 4 kids, all of which attend Erie’s Public Schools. Ken also has a son who lives in Columbus, Georgia who is equally successful in that area’s public schools.

Ken and his family attend Erie Christian Fellowship Church, where he serves in Youth Ministry as a middle school teacher. He is a man of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. When away from work, his time is spent coaching and watching his kids play sports. He enjoys date nights with his wife, and sneaking in some racquetball and fishing in the numerous waterways in his beloved hometown.