BURLINGTON - The school district is wasting no time getting to the point where they gladly hire a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

On Sept. 30., Town Meeting passed a warrant article by a clear majority to create the position in the School Department’s budget.

The financial warrant article will see $81,000 be raised and appropriated, and added to the current School Department’s Operating Budget to fund the position to be spent under the direction of the School Committee for fiscal year 2021. The article passed by a 73-33 margin. The approval also means there will be funds allocated for the position in the years to come.

The district’s Equity Committee and Burlington Against Racism (BAR) group, and a group of Town Meeting members crafted the warrant article, with formal support from School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti. Incorporating this position is a huge step in the Equity Committee’s prerogative to continue to work towards appropriately implementing modernized cultural competency in Burlington schools.

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 six months with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The newest components of the Action Plan call for hiring anti-racists educators and more educators of color; creating an inclusive working environment for educators of color; making sure the entire staff is training in equitable practices; and establishing protocol for addressing students using racial slurs in person or on social media, which recently took place among Burlington students on a social media website.

In hopes of achieving these lofty goals, the Equity Committee asked school and town officials to move forward with the hiring of a director to help see the aforementioned objectives come to fruition.

This will be a Central Office position who will report to the superintendent, which is consistent with other communities that have a similar position.

Dr. Conti briefed the School Committee on the job description and timeline for the implementation of the position. The director-level position will be a full-year (12 months) position, comparable to the district’s director of English Language Learners. He expects the position to develop over time and grow into what is needed most in the Burlington schools.

“Every colleague I talked to who has this position says it evolves over time. None of them end up where they started,” commented Dr. Conti. “The director title makes the most sense to me. It fits into our other leadership titles that we have.”

Dr. Conti detailed the director will work with students, provide professional development and be a valuable member of the district’s leadership team.

“I am most excited about trying to make changes in our organization, so we do not have outcomes and results that are disproportionate to begin with,” Dr. Conti said of his hopes and expectations for the new leadership position. “Having that voice to begin with will be very valuable to the district and our leadership team.”

The specific job responsibilities for the equity director were as follows:

- Identify and assess biases and racism in district programs and practices.

- Establish equitable and culturally responsive teaching strategies.

- Provide district-wide diversity, equity and inclusion training.

- Support the hiring, retention and promotion of a diverse workforce.

- Evaluate the current curriculum for cultural competence and relevance.

- Create protocols and a robust system for reporting and responding to incidents of bias and discrimination.

- Encourage and mediate open conversations about bias, discrimination and racism.

The hiring process calls for a myriad of job requirements, such as a master’s degree with 5+ years of related experience in a school setting and a bachelor’s degree with 7-10+ years of experience in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. The selection process for candidates includes a Hiring Committee, meeting with student focus groups and meeting and greeting with members of the Burlington Public Schools community.

“This position will see that equity is a lens that we start from, not where we end at and we shape our decisions and policies acknowledging that,” stated Dr. Conti. “The equity director will be a valued member of our leadership team. We are not color blind. We want to make sure all students feel like they belong.”

The administration and committee expressed sincere gratitude to all the parties involved that made this position a reality, including Town Meeting and the Equity Committee.

Timeline

Following the district’s typical hiring process, a Hiring Committee will be created, the job will be posted by the end of 2020, interviews will take place sometime in January/February, and Dr. Conti hopes to have the position filled by March, depending on the candidate pool and how the interview process goes.

All this information will be finalized and ready for the School Committee’s vote at their next meeting on Oct. 27.

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