“Our mission as educational institutions asks us to sustain diverse, equitable and inclusive places – human resource professionals can play a strategic role in diversity, equity and inclusion to influence the communities that we are looking to build and further that equity work in our schools,” said Brandie Melendez, director of equity and inclusion at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York, in her deep dive session, “From Gatekeepers to Keymakers” during the 2021 NBOA Annual Meeting.
The Hiring Component
Melendez clarified her understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). “When I talk about diversity, I'm referring to a diversity of perspectives and experiences,” she noted. “When we talk about a diverse hiring committee, we're talking about many different people bringing many types of various perspectives.”
Equity is different from equality. It is what individuals need to be successful, says Melendez. “Inclusion is being seen and having a voice and really moving towards that environment where every individual of a community has this sense of belonging,” she said. “And I want to emphasize that the belonging part applies to every aspect of life in schools that are truly doing this work.”
Consider diversity, equity and inclusion in every step of the hiring process, said Melendez, starting with the creation of the job description. “We think about inclusion and outreach to historically underrepresented or marginalized groups in our recruiting processes, how our hiring committees are created, how we set standardized questions in a feedback process,” she said.
Melendez also encouraged thinking about the hiring process as a recruitment strategy, as how a school conducts itself speaks volumes about the institution. She encouraged attendees to examine, “How in our hiring processes, are we making an authentic assessment of where we are as a school, and how do we communicate that? What is the word on the street, so to speak, about our school around this DEI work?”
Menendez suggested questions to consider when reviewing a school’s DEI practices in hiring. They include:
- Does your process demonstrate thoughtfulness and respect for the candidate experience?
- Who does the candidate meet with as a part of that process and what does that say about who's important in your community?
- What does your process say about the experience you hope for candidates to have?
- How are institutional values reflected in your process?
- Does the hiring committee for each position represent a diversity of perspectives?
- What questions are asked and who is asking them?
- Does each job description clearly state that every candidate is expected to have a commitment to engaging in DEI work in addition to their content area of expertise and core skills?
The Equity Component
A school’s human resources activities can help shape equity in education if systems are in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success, said Melendez. ”That requires understanding the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual students, or by populations of students, and providing additional support to help them overcome those barriers.”
She adds this might not ensure equal outcomes, but it is important to strive to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for success.
“We must think of human resources work as beginning with the recruitment all the way through to how people leave our communities, and every move in between should be informed by equity as a means of building and sustaining belonging for everyone, and accountability from everyone,” said Menendez.
Wrapping up, she challenged NBOA members to ask themselves how their work connects to the DEI goals of their school.