Panel urges NYC schools to hire a chief integration officer to oversee diversity issues
- A new report created by New York City’s School Diversity Advisory Group suggests the city hire a chief integration officer to improve school diversity and address its deep segregation issues, Education Week reports.
- Other recommendations for addressing school diversity include reviewing schools and programs to determine whether admissions criteria encourage segregation; assuring all events and admission processes are easily accessible to all students; investing in programs that encourage diverse participation; ensuring equity among schools with regard to classes, programs and after-school activities; and diversifying the education workforce more fully.
- Other recommendations for the city’s education department include strengthening family engagement, increasing student voice, promoting restorative justice practices, and adopting more culturally-responsive approaches toward teaching.
While this newest recommendation by New York City’s School Diversity Advisory Group calls for the hiring of a chief integration officer, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has been calling for the hiring of a chief diversity officer for more than two years. The term “chief diversity officer” is the more commonly used term in corporate America and in institutions of higher learning, including community colleges. It may also be the better term to use in order to avoid confusion with the chief information officer when those terms are used as acronyms, as they commonly are.
Dr. Damon A. Williams and Dr. Katrina C. Wade-Golden, co-principal investigators for the “Diversity Officer Study,” defined the role of a chief diversity officer in a higher education setting as having the "responsibility for guiding efforts to conceptualize, define, assess, nurture, and cultivate diversity as an institutional and educational resource."
They went on to write that while the duties could include affirmative action/equal employment opportunity or "the constituent needs of minorities, women, and other bounded social identity groups," chief diversity officers are also the point people and leadership coordinators on diversity issues across an institution or organization.
In a K-12 setting, these individuals would be more likely tasked with increasing diversity at schools and in the teacher workforce, as well as ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for all students. However, most school districts are unlikely to have the resources to hire one person to handle these issues, especially as chief diversity officers are usually costly, sometimes difficult to hire, and, according a recent study, not always effective.
School districts can develop their own School Diversity Advisory Committees, however, to begin taking stock of these issues. In New York City, this group included city representatives, parents, experts, students and community representatives. A similar mix of school board members, local government officials, parents, students and community stakeholders would likely work for any school district. This committee can help evaluate diversity needs and help the district work toward solutions to improve them.
Desegregating schools requires creative solutions. Whether using a committee or not, many of the recommendations made by the New York City report are worth considering in any school district. Actions such as increasing student voice and increasing diversity in the teacher workforce are worthwhile goals for multiple reasons, as is increasing family engagement. For school districts that have a family engagement officer, that person may also be able to help lead the charge toward greater diversity in schools.