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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

A look into WA’s diversity

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Penelope Zambrana
Director of Equity, Curriculum, and Instruction, Magaly Ronan, smiles for a photo.

The controversy and discussion of diversity has been ongoing at Westford Academy for years. Although Westford is often considered an affluent town from the perspective of neighboring town and even residents in Westford, it has its fair share of people in poverty as well as a progressively growing population of a minority community. 

Westford and it’s main surrounding towns, Lowell, Chelmsford, and Tyngsborough, showcase a similar display of diversity. While Lowell may contain a bit more of variety, all surrounding towns have a white majority population with Asian following, though it slightly differs in each district. However, behind all this, these school districts and towns are working tirelessly to improve their inclusion and diversity.

As of 2023, Westford’s population was 24,535 residents and the dominant race was white with Asian following close behind. Individuals categorized under white took up 73.3% of the population while the Asian population took up 21.6%.

All other races take up a very small percentage of the population in comparison to the white and Asian population. The next most popular race in Westford is Hispanic or Latin0 which only takes up 2.9%, followed by Black or African American which takes up 0.8% of the town population.

These statistics come from Westford Academy’s Director of Equity, Curriculum, and Instruction, Magaly Ronan. Ronan has worked in Westford schools since July of 2022, but this is her 26th year in education as she has previously worked in Chelsea Public Schools and Lowell Public Schools.

“I started as a teacher in Chelsea Public Schools, then taught in Lowell as a teacher and a math coordinator, but I’ve always worked with diversity, especially in urban settings,” Ronan said.

To compare the data of Westford with surrounding towns, Chelmsford has a larger population of 35,906 residents. Their most dominant race is also white consisting of 82.6%, and is also followed by 8.8% Asian which is less than Westford’s 12.8%.

In Tyngsborough, the population is much smaller with only 12,368 residents but the same pattern follows. Their white population consists of 81.7% and their Asian population consists of 9.6%. This is slightly more than Chelmsford, but less than Westford.

However, in Lowell’s population of 112,608 residents, while white and Asian are still the dominant races, white only maintains 54.3% of the population, while the Asian population consists of 22.6%. Hispanic or Latino following closely behind at 17.8%.

Lowell has the largest difference in proportion to Westford because in other districts such as Westford, Tyngsborough and Chelmsford, the Hispanic population is not as prominent.

According to Kelly Rogers, the K-12 Department Reading Coordinator in Chelmsford Public Schools, there is something called Incident Districts. Incident Districts show how many English Second Language (ESL) students a district has. If a town is considered an Incident District, it means it has a higher population of ESL students in the school district. Districts such as Chelmsford would be considered an Incident District according to Rogers.

“I think we do a really great job of integrating all our ESL students into all of our activities,” Rogers said. “The main goal is to provide equal access for all of our students, so I think we do a pretty good job of making sure that everyone has the same opportunities.” 

Westford is considered a Mid Incidence District, so less than Chelmsford, but according to Michelle Wagner, the ESL Teacher at WA and Blanchard, this number has been rapidly increasing lately.

“I think it’s exciting to be part of a district that’s growing like we are,” Wagner said. “I think that the more students we have the more opportunities and connections we have. We have students from all over the world attending here thanks to our exchange program and they’re really just amazing and I’m so glad they’re here and we can all learn from each other.”

In Tyngsborough, there is also action being taken to improve the diversity and the improvement has already begun. For example, they often have events where students can showcase and be proud of their culture. One of the most popular events during the 2022-2023 school year was a potluck where all families could bring in food to the elementary school relating to their culture for everyone to sample. 

“Over the last five years, just from an ESL perspective, I think we [Tyngsborough] had around 30 ESL students when I started here and now we have over 130,” ESL Coordinator at Tyngsborough Public Schools Kate Walsh said. 

According to Walsh, Rogers, and Ronan, they are all constantly trying to integrate new ways to promote diversity as well as inclusion at school, whether it be through programs, events, or even a regular school day. In Tyngsborough and Westford, they are trying to integrate education of different cultures into curriculum with literature used in the classrooms so students can get experience early on in their academic journey. 

In addition to the racial minorities in Westford, there is also a community of people in Westford who would be considered low income and in poverty. 

“There is that undercurrent of families that are not as fortunate as others and so we just try to put resources on the website or share those resources with teachers who are advocating for these children,” Ronan said.

Another large problem for the lower income population of Westford is transportation. There are parents in Westford who do not own cars. For these families it can be incredibly difficult to maneuver around Westford if they are not within walking distance to a place. 

“If a student needs to get to Boston for some reason and they don’t have a car, it is hugely difficult,” Wagner said. “I wish that we could figure out public transportation.”

According to Ronan, another problem low income students have is completing homework. She mostly hears from ESL teachers of children not having a proper support system at home to help them with homework because the parents often will be at work.

The percentage of people in Westford with income levels below the 200% of property level is 7.3%; a small percentage, but still there. The race most burdened by this is the Hispanic population. ‘Rent Burden’ is defined as spending 30% or more of your income on housing. 

There are increasingly more resources becoming available to people in need in Westford, being instilled by the Office of Equity, Curriculum, and Instruction. 

One of the more recent and important resources is the English Language Parent Advisory Council (ELPAC). ELPAC is a program where parents of ESL students can go and discuss experiences and how to be more inclusive overall as a school district. It is led by parent liaison, Helen Xia. To find more information about ELPAC or contact information, parents can visit the Westford Public Schools website and look under Departments to find the area for the Office of Equity, Curriculum, and Instruction.

While Westford and most surrounding towns have not reached maximum diversity, they are constantly working to implement new ways to be more inclusive and diverse.

“Part of my work is to increase access and equity in the classroom so we are going with Dr. Chew, who is very clever to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion through the curriculum,” Ronan said. “So through curriculum, we are trying to weave in more diverse resources like books in the elementary schools.”

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About the Contributor
Penelope Zambrana, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Penelope Zambrana and I’m a sophomore at Westford Academy, as well as a staff writer on the Ghostwriter. In my free time I like to read, listen to music, and I enjoy traveling as well. In the summer I also love going to the beach, and in the winter I like to ski. This is my first year in journalism so I’m very excited to discover what it’s like and learn about it.

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