Diversity Now is broadening its communication strategy to include this blog as well as a Facebook page . In this, our first post on our new blog, we summarize our analysis of the Burlington School District's effectiveness in 2009-10 in implementing the School Board's diversity policy, adopted in March 2009. The full report can be found at: Full report
Diversity Now, one year from its founding, is broadening its focus to fully embrace the goal of inclusive excellence in our children’s education for all, especially by ability, class, gender, native and immigrant status, race, and sexual orientation. Recognizing historical race relations and exclusion in the US, we are also continuing our emphasis on the urgent need for the District to hire a more ethnically diverse workforce.
The Board and District took several important steps to operationalize their diversity policy, including the establishment of the Equity Office for Employment and Retention to revise processes and procedures for hiring to yield more diverse pools and hires. In addition, the Director of Diversity established the Equity Council, comprised of teachers, administrators, and community members, to serve as an interface with school hiring committees and central administration in the implementation of new hiring processes.
The hiring of two principals, an interim principal, and several teachers this year underscores the challenges the District faces. Despite an unprecedented diverse pool of applicants for two principal positions, two White principals were selected. Overlooked among the pool of applicants were applicants of color with principal experience.
The hiring process and aftermath led to heightened community tensions. On the one hand, the community of color and allies perceived the hiring process to reproduce past inequalities and obstructions in access to key positions. The hiring of a former school board member as principal led to a perception of an unlevel playing field.
In contrast, when the school board voted to delay approval of the principal hires, some parents and teachers at CP Smith and Hunt responded with acrimony that the Board was acting unfairly and responding to “special interests.” Clearly, there is work to be done to communicate and educate on the issue of diversity recruitment and hiring, and it rests with the Board and central office to make clear why this goal is being pursued, and how it contributes to a high quality education for all students in the District.
It will be important in the coming year for the Board and administration to create opportunities to bring the community together, and, as we note below, this will require a clearly defined strategy on their part to achieve this goal.
With regards to the teachers, the District identified six teachers of color hired out of 24. (The distribution of new teacher hires is as follows: one African American, two Middle Easterners, two Latin Americans, and one Asian American). Only one, however, is from an historic US underrepresented group (comprised of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics).
US underrepresented groups face the greatest barriers to employment, given historic race relations in the US. Further, a large portion of students of color in the District are from these groups. The addition of a new teacher of color this year, in fact, does not offset the loss of two teachers of color from historically underrepresented groups and it is clear the District has redouble its efforts to make progress in this area. For data on student, teacher and staff distributions by ethnicity, see the following link: Diversity by the Numbers
Diversity Now Goals for 2010-11
Based on our assessment, Diversity Now has laid out the following goals to pursue in its advocacy work this year.
• Continued commitment to work with the School Board, Superintendent, and District
We will continue to provide assistance to help the Board develop a medium- and long-range diversity and inclusive education plan to include 1) development of a long-range, annual, multi-year training program for teachers, principals, and administrators on diversity recruitment and cultural competency; 2) development of evaluation criteria for all staff, based on cultural competency and contribution to the District’s goal of diversifying its workforce; 3) systems to facilitate and improve the networking and recruitment effort, and 4) provides uses the District’s self-study.
• Work with the Board to organize a visit by prominent superintendent to BSD who has worked successfully to close achievement gaps, implemented a diversity strategy, and re-energized his or her school District to provide a 21st century education. The evidence finds that schools that have moved carefully toward providing a high-level curriculum and instruction for all of their students have substantially narrowed or eliminated the racial/ethnic achievement gaps. Examples of these schools include: Southwest Elementary in Durham NC (2002-2007), Project Bright Idea in North Carolina, Southside High School in Rockville Centre NY, and Montgomery County schools in Maryland.
• BSD self-study
We plan to request data to be made publicly available on:
o Graduation rates;
o Grade completion rates;
o Disciplinary actions and referrals;
o Tracking (i.e., participation on Honors and AP classes);
o Percentage of graduating seniors heading to college.
In reference to demographic groups, we refer to ethnicity/race, native status, gender, and other demarcations where appropriate. The data would be used to answer three key questions: 1) How must schools change in order for all children to learn? 2) What are the causes of failure to learn or decisions not to learn? 3) How does bias and prejudice (individual and institutional, conscious and unconscious) affect teaching, learning, and school policies?
• Advocate for a Board strategy for meeting and educating stakeholders on the District’s diversity goals.
There is an urgent need for the Board and administration to get out in front of this issue, meeting with PTOs, the teacher’s union, and other salient groups on diversity, diversity goals, and recruitment strategies.
• Advocate for a pilot student-focused assessment of racial climate at Burlington High School (with input by students of color AND White students) to be replicated with revision at other schools.
• Advocate for a District- and Board-organized series of focus groups that bring together key school leaders, teachers, and parents to discuss issues of race in our schools, targeting to ward hearing from parents with children of color in the schools.