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BIPOC educators slam diversity director hiring process

BY JASON STARR 

Observer staff 

The Champlain Valley School District stands accused of racism in the way it is hiring for an anti-racism administrator. 

The district hired its first “director of diversity, equity and inclusion” last July, but that person resigned within a week, with job duties and level of authority at issue. A committee of school board members and administrators reconsidered the job description over a series of meetings last year, and the opening was reposted three weeks ago. 

Shortly after the reposting, during a Feb. 16 meeting of the school board, Allen Brook School paraeducator Jorge Rios, Hinesburg Community School Spanish teacher Ainaka Luna and Shelburne Community School planning room director Yasamin Gordon criticized the job description as exclusionary. 

The requirement that candidates have a master’s degree precludes people who may be qualified through experience rather than higher education, they told board members and administrators. 

“A lot of people with great skills can’t get this job because they can’t pay for a graduate (school) diploma,” Luna said. “It is elitist and it reinforces white privilege. There are other people who have been doing so much community work and deserve to be here because they have the experience.” 

Rios said the district did not learn from the experience of trying to hire for the position last year and called the hiring process racist. 

“We can’t start an inclusive position by excluding people,” he said. 

The district hired consultant Noel Green to help write the job description and qualifications. Green, who is black, is the former interim principal of Burlington High School. Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said having a master’s level requirement was Green’s suggestion. 

“We believed that is how we were signaling how important this position was,” she said. “The posting is about finding the very best person we can find to lead this work.” 

Gordon, who is among one of several new diversity coaches at the district this school year, criticized the hiring of Green, saying the district should have prioritized ideas from its own staff over an outsider. 

“This district has a bad habit of looking for outside sources to come in as experts,” she said. “If you look to the community, you will find the answers you are looking for instead of ignoring us and looking to people who have nothing to do with us.” 

Pinckney said the district had already received six candidates in the first few days since posting the position. She also agreed to revise the qualifications to say “Master’s degree from an accredited college or university or equivalent experience.” 

The posting also says “black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), immigrants, women, and LGBTQ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.” 

Candidate interviews are expected to take place this month. 

The director of diversity, equity and inclusion will be responsible for implementing the district’s equity policy, approved by the board in December. The policy was written to ensure “each student receives the resources and educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive.” 

“The district will incorporate principles of equity within all policies, programs, operations, practices and resource allocations,” the policy states. 

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