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Guilderland schools to hire diversity, equity coordinator

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“We’re becoming more diverse and we want to make sure we are equitable and inclusive for each and every one of our students,” said Superintendent Marie Wiles. “This is one way to make sure the work continues.”

The GCSD student population is currently 75 percent white and 25 percent students of color — a large shift from the past 20 years, Wiles said — with a growing number of English language learners and economically disadvantaged students.

Seema Rivera, president of the Guilderland Board of Education, said a review of school district data showed that there was a test score gap between students of color and white students — a nationwide phenomena stemming from systemic racism, studies show. Rivera calls the disparities opportunity gaps rather than achievement gaps.

“We’re looking at whether that is happening because the right support systems weren’t in place,” River said. “We’re not looking at it in a bad way, but are drawing more attention to what we could be doing here.”

The education board also found numerous incident reports about racism that students of color experienced in the school.

The opportunity gap in tandem with the incident reports further mobilized the district to concentrate resources into a full-time position to support students of color.

The role of the DEI coordinator will be primarily student advocacy and support. Wiles said the coordinator will also take a lead on evaluating an equity audit the school district is pursuing, reevaluating district policies and practices to better support diverse students and aiding the district to diversify its workforce to better reflect its student population.

“Overall, this would be a person who would have as a primary objective the success of all students,” Wiles said.

Guilderland residents approved the $105 million budget by nearly 70 percent this week, and Wiles said there was a strong level of support for the coordinator position. It appears that Niskayuna Central School District is the only other suburban school district in the Capital Region with a similar position, a chief equity officer established in 2019.

However, the newly proposed position did not come without some backlash from the community, too.

“There’s definitely been some pushback from when we first started this work,” Rivera said, adding that some residents didn’t understand the need for DEI work and questioned whether racism existed at Guilderland.

“There was a learning piece,” she said. “But the last few board meetings, we had a lot of letters of support.”

This content was originally published here.

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