BURLINGTON - The Equity Committee of the school district is working to appropriately implement modernized cultural competency.
The committee, which consists of Burlington High School students and various school officials, has devised an Action Plan for achieving goals of equity in the district. The Equity Committee has been functioning for the past two years, but things have really picked up steam in the last two months with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first initiative of the plan will see that cultural competency is prevalent in the district’s hiring process. In recent years, the hiring process in the district included a “uniform question” that has been asked to all potential employees in the interview process. A scoring rubric is a key part of the question, but while the prudent cultural competency boxes get checked during the hiring process, the conversation has basically ended there in the past three years.
“We have asked for this the past three years, regarding questions for cultural competency for employees to answer, but we did not debrief after or talk about what a good response was,” Assistant School Supt. Patrick Larkin explained to the School Committee. “We checked the boxes of questions asked, but I do not know how much they influenced the hiring process.”
Larkin confirmed the hiring process will now have a similar uniform question to all prospective employees, which will include a grading scale of 1-4 (1-acceptable; 2-okay; 3 and 4 would not meet the standards for employment in the district). This has been implemented immediately in the district.
The second objective of the Equity Committee is to hire a consultant in the district to help with the Action Plan.
“We have been working on this, but it can get pushed down the priority list, which is unacceptable,” stated Larkin, noting different initiatives and objectives can easily pile up in the district and no one wants the Action Plan to fall by the wayside. “I want a consultant who has worked with other districts on this type of plan to come here and help us.”
Larkin acknowledged the district has a “few” candidates in mind, and the goal is to have a consultant hired before the upcoming school year begins. He also mentioned another objective of the Action Plan, pertaining to improving the comfort level and cultural competency of staff in the district. This has not been formally implemented, but it is near the top of the list for Action Plan objectives.
The School Committee is overwhelmingly in support of the Equity Committee and their Action Plans, as the board is putting an emphasis on taking action.
“There is a real urgency by the Equity Committee to make changes,” remarked School Committee member Martha Simon. “The Action Plan is great, thus far. The strong statements are nice, but what are we going to do?”
School Committee member Thomas Murphy echoed that creating awareness has been a “big step” but more needs to be done.
“It is all about, what are we going to do next?” proposed Murphy. “I will support [the Equity Committee] all the way through.”
School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti did disclose there are preliminary discussions about potentially adding courses on racial equity and injustice in the public school system, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Per recommendation by school officials, the School Committee unanimously approved the creation of a Diversity and Equity Subcommittee that mandates two School Committee members to take part in Equity Committee meetings.