Northwest Local School District (NWLSD) is taking steps to move its equity and diversity efforts forward and is standing strong on their commitment to develop cultural competency that embraces diversity, ensures inclusivity, and creates equitable opportunity for all. Over the past four months, NWLSD has rolled out three initiatives to address the needs of the district, including the establishment of two partnerships and the implementation of a districtwide leadership plan that will establish diversity practices in each building and create a work and school environment that fosters inclusion, equity and belonging.
In August, NWLSD began partnering with Rice Education and Consulting (REdCon) to improve diversity hiring and recruitment. REdCon is working with NWLSD to identify metrics to improve NWLSD’S diversity hiring practices, and to identify and increase candidate sources and screening processes. Over the last four months, REdCon has been actively carrying out a diversity hiring audit, working with minority employees hired over the course of the last two years to better understand hiring needs and past interview experiences. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Rice Education and Consulting,” said Darrell Yater, NWLSD Assistant Superintendent. “We understand the immense need to create a school community where our staff reflects the makeup of our student population. Nearly 50% of our students identify as African-American or as a minority; however, our minority staff only makeup a small percentage of our total employment, these numbers are even lower when addressing leadership positions throughout our district. We know that this needs to change and we are committed to addressing the imbalance.”
While staffing is a concern, NWLSD also recognizes the strong need to provide staff with the professional development needed to facilitate discussions with students and staff in order to create culturally responsive classrooms districtwide. In October, NWLSD began the process of putting together a Diversity Leadership Team (DLT) within each building to identify and address the diversity, equity and inclusion needs. These teams consist of two staff members and a building administrator. NWLSD conducted an interview process to select the staff members who would lead this initiative in every school. Through grant funds, the district has been able to give each participant a stipend to compensate for the work required outside of the work day. Each member of the DLT is required to participate in a 4-session program titled One Degree Shift in Understanding Race, Class, Culture & Poverty in the Classroom. The program, which is in partnership with Katrice Quitter of Hamilton County Educational Service Center, will lead the DLT through the process of understanding their role in leading professional development that will support identifying and eliminating any present or potential barriers, and will help the staff to create a work and school environment that fosters inclusion, equity and belonging for all. The DLT will then be responsible for working with their building leadership team to bring awareness and to implement professional development for all staff next year. The DLT’s first meeting was held on November 12, 2020.
“Early last year, we rolled out our Strategic Plan establishing our five core values: Diversity & Equity, Student Achievement, Social-Emotional Development, Financial Stability and Culture of Trust,” said Todd Bowling, NWLSD Superintendent. “As we enter into year two of our Strategic Plan Initiative, we have begun to put a plan in place to create a foundation for continuous improvement of the teaching and learning in Northwest Local Schools. We recognize that many of the needed changes will take time to fully ascertain and implement; however, we remain committed to putting plans in place to address diversity, equity and inclusion districtwide.”