More than 430 employees from the Santa Barbara Unified School District have participated in cultural proficiency training over the past two years, and most said they enjoyed the experience, according to a report discussed at this week’s Board of Education meeting.

Carmel Saad, professor of psychology at Westmont College, has been working with Harvard University, UCSB, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to examine the effect of the training on teacher experiences and student outcomes. She presented a report at the meeting with data from 328 training participants.

“It’s so nice to bring the work that we do to the community,” Saad said. “People really gained a lot.”

According to the training results, 94 percent of the respondents said the training was either “good” or “excellent.” Also, 83 percent of the respondents said they would “very” or “extremely” recommend the training to others.

And 78 percent said they learned “much” or “very much” from the training. The area of the survey that showed the least amount of favor was whether participants were looking forward to the training. About 32 percent said they were either “slightly,” “somewhat” or “not at all” looking forward to the training. 

The district has held five trainings in the past five years with Saad, in collaboration with Jarrod Schwartz, executive director of Just Communities Central Coast.

They would like to offer the next trainings on Aug. 7 and Oct. 21 of this year for new leaders, certificated staff, and particularly positions that have lots of contact with students, such as secretaries, campus secruity and possibly paraeducators. 

The cost of the contract is in addition to the larger training contract that the district has with Just Communities.

The district sparked controversy with some people last year when it approved a $294,430 agreement with the nonprofit organization Just Communities to provide cultural proficiency and implicit bias training. A group of parents and community activists filed a lawsuit to block the district from providing the training, alleging that it was racist toward white people. 

For the 2017-18 school year, the district paid Saad $52,590 and Just Communities $24,970. This school year, the district intends to pay Saad $63,625 and Just Communities $8,625.

Participants will be assigned randomly for the August or October trainings. Saad and Just Communities is expected to return to the district with a contract request for the following school year. 

District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said the training was good for the district and supported the researchers’ efforts.

“Today in the media almost every day there is an article that speaks to the impact of bias,” Matsuoka said. “I am so proud that we are one of the many agencies bringing awareness around bias.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.