By De’Ondre Hogan, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Cynthia Young, Manager of Communications and Customer Service; Penny Miller Nelson, Associate Superintendent; and Michael Sharrow, Superintendent of Schools, Midland Public Schools


As a District, Midland Public Schools (MPS) began a concerted effort toward bolstering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion several years ago. Following a couple of racially charged incidents that were deeply felt by our students/stakeholders, MPS Administrators and Board of Education members received passionate, insightful communications from MPS students and stakeholders who shared incidents and experiences of prejudice and discrimination. It became devastatingly apparent that this was a critical issue for our District and Midland PS took action intentionally and thoughtfully. Thus began the MPS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey, realizing that this would not be a sprint, but rather could be at times an arduous voyage with many twists and turns along the way.

We know that conditions and incidents in our schools are a small representation of our community, state, and nation at large. During the early stages of our District’s DEI work in 2018, Superintendent Michael Sharrow quickly realized that MPS was not an island in this work, but that our community—citizens, non-profits, business partners, city, and county – would need to join our students, staff, and families in this vital initiative since we are all woven into the fabric that makes up Midland, Michigan. As our work began, Mr. Sharrow asked Penny Miller-Nelson, MPS Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, to take the lead in the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. Penny hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. Penny continues to be the District’s DEI administrative liaison and leader, work she does professionally, admirably and thoughtfully.

Please allow us to share some highlights of our Midland Public Schools DEI journey to date:

  • 2018-19
    • MPS formal DEI work began. Dow Chemical Company joined MPS in the development of a Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan. The kick off was the MPS opening staff meeting in August of 2018.
  • Summer of 2019
    • Group of students and staff traveled to Kenya as part of the WE are Innovators Challenge
  • Late Summer of 2019
    • MPS Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Council made up of parents, students and staff met for the first time. This group of professionals continues to meet and reinforce MPS DEI efforts. They lend their voices, knowledge and have been vital in maintaining two-way communication between the district and community.
  • January 2020
    • Dow Chemical, through their executive-on-loan program, provided a consultant to work along-side the MPS DEI team for the 2020 calendar year
  • July 2020
    • MPS adopted a District Vision Statement that encompasses DEI
      • “Lead with respect, trust and courage. Ensure an equitable, collaborative and inclusive culture. Enable all to achieve success.”
  • Spring/Summer 2020
    • MPS teachers and administrators participated in virtual courageous conversations and open dialogue about MPS culture and where they felt change was needed.
    • MPS Administrators & Teachers participated in a book study, White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin D’Angelo,
    • Board of Education members participated in two DEI workshops
    • Board of Education approved the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Proclamation: “Resolution to Change the System, Eliminate Racism and Create More Equitable and Inclusive Schools for All.”
    • Superintendent Sharrow published a Special Edition Communique activating an MPS “Call to Action” asking all members of our school community to identify racial injustices and bring them to us for action.
  •  2020-21
    • All teachers engaged in DEI-centered professional learning during every professional development session. Training centered on conducting critical conversations in the classroom.
    • Courageous Conversations workshop took place for staff
    • Bi-weekly DEI Forums took place in evenings where MPS staff joined to offer perspectives regarding day-to-day happenings in MPS. The DEI forums have been reimagined and now model a learning opportunity for teachers to earn SCECHs after engaging with the resource.
    • Each Board of Education study committee meeting agenda includes DEI Updates
  • Winter/Spring 2021
    • MPS hired our first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, De’Ondre Hogan.
    • 10-week Racial Equity Challenge was initiated with staff members introducing key concepts in inclusion and equity
  • 2021-22
    • ELA teachers were offered professional learning focused on utilizing inclusive texts in the classroom.
    • MPS DEI Equity Audit has been completed by a third-party consultant. The district is now preparing to present the results publicly and develop action plans to fulfill recommendations.
    • MPS began a network of CCL’s (Culture and Climate Leaders) at each school to provide care, support and help to resolve issues when students experience hurtful or difficult situations and need a kind ally. A CCL is a building staff member who is passionate about inclusion/equity and supports their respective school community.

De’Ondre Hogan, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Midland Public Schools

To say this work has taken our district through uncharted, troubled waters would be a huge understatement. Throughout this journey, MPS leadership has had the opportunity to hear from passionate students and stakeholders who have experienced prejudice firsthand. Impassioned voices spoke loud during the Black Lives Matter rallies, as Asian Americans were targeted in our Nation, from the LGBTQ movement, and in many other circumstances and situations. De’Ondre Hogan as our Director of DEI has done a great job since he joined us in January of 2021. He provides essential leadership and project management for our district’s DEI strategy;  supports administrators/teachers/staff in addressing and responding to specific events; serves as a parent/community liaison for input, feedback and dialogue; collaborates with staff in the enhancement of existing systems to ensure equitable support for all learners; and so much more.

We would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to thank our district stakeholders for their support, input, and passion regarding this vital initiative. We rely on groups like the DEI Parent Advisory Committee to be advocates for the efforts the school district is making. Community engagement is key in our inclusion efforts. Engaging the community fosters relationships, keeps our ear to the ground, and makes transparency a natural occurrence.

Looking ahead, MPS is exploring PD offerings centered on equity and providing credible resources. Ensuring staff members feel supported is beneficial to creating ownership, insight, and positivity. Extending grace to teachers and expressing the need to grow in order to ensure an equitable experience for all students is a great starting point. MPS looks forward to centering equity in the continuous improvement process ultimately leading to a key MICIP goal specific to equity.

We do not ever see our District’s DEI journey ending. It will continue to move forward depending on the twists and turns experienced around us. MPS has grown in the past several years and as we look ahead, Midland Public Schools continues to work toward a more equitable and inclusive culture in all segments of MPS. We know DEI is not only critical for our District but also for our community, state, nation, and, most especially for our students if they are to venture out and succeed in this 21st Century world!