On Thursday, October 13th, I along with my fellow candidates for the Board of Education participated in the Candidate Forum hosted by the Conference of SCAs and moderated by the League of Women Voters. As with all debates, this one allowed for a limited time to answer questions. Many of the questions asked were not able to be fully answered in the minute or two that we were provided. I will be expanding upon my answers over the next few days because the issues at stake in this election are too important to be addressed by soundbites. There needs to be reasoned and thoughtful action to pressing problems.
The first question was “How would you further the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion, with regard to both school climate and culture, and hiring, recruiting and retainment practices. And will you support the recommendations by Grand Rivers.” That night I answered the second part of the question first, that yes, I support implementing the recommendations by Grand Rivers. The recommendations are fair and reasonable. They represent the start down the path of our community toward the goal a diverse and harmonious school system.
This goal starts with recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse teachers, staff, and administrators. This is a topic I have been talking about at Board of Education meetings since before Covid. I raised it publicly and by email with the previous superintendent. I even pointed out that at the time the Verona job postings did not include an EEOC statement, so why would a quality diverse candidate choose to apply to Verona. More recently, about a year ago, utilizing the publicly available BOE minutes, tracked and analyzed hiring of department heads and administrators in Verona. Presently, Verona does not have any student-facing administrators of color. All of the department heads, principals, the vice principal, supervisors, and managers are white. The business administrator is Hispanic, but most students do not interact with him. Our teaching staff is likewise very white. This does not allow for white students, to have informal and spontaneous interactions with people in authority who are not the same race or ethnicity as they are. Conversely, our students of color may not be able to find teachers or administrators who are like them and understand their unique concerns and issues. Over the past year, the Board of Education has heard from students, dozens of students, talk about what it is like to be black or Hispanic or Asian or LGBTQ+ in Verona. The statements were not positive. We have a responsibility to all our students to provide them with a safe and welcoming place to attend school.
The recommendations from Grand River included gathering and analyzing data. Are we attracting a diverse candidate pool? Are we selecting qualified diverse candidates when we attract them? Are our new hires leaving and why? Hiring qualified diverse staff, teachers and administrators must be intentional and part of a well-thought-out process. Looking closely at the data is the first step. This process does not stop when we get the resume or make the offer, but it is continual so that we are investing our resources in staff that will achieve tenure and continues on in Verona.
My children have experienced excellent teachers in Verona, but with one exception, those teachers have been uniformly white. There is room for teachers and administrators that represent a variety of backgrounds and cultures. All our students will be better citizens of the world if they have experiences as children with people in positions of power who are not just like them and who may have a different viewpoint of the world. The Board of Education does not directly hire staff and teachers but does approve staff and teacher hires. We also have a platform in which to ask questions, in public, about the hiring process and how candidates are selected. If elected to the Board I intend to ask questions, not about individual hires, but about the system we use to hire so that no longer will “we hire the best” be the end of the discussion.