The Orange County Board of Education voted unanimously to create a chief equity officer position at its meeting on Feb. 25.
The chief equity officer will work to address equity issues within schools, including the achievement gap and discipline practices. The duties also include helping to develop, organize and implement professional development opportunities for district staff with an emphasis on racial and equity awareness. They will help implement the racial equity plan that was passed earlier last month and will serve as an internal consultant to the district’s superintendent, cabinet directors, coordinators and principals.
The proposed budget for this position is $300,000.
Todd Wirt, the superintendent of Orange County Schools, said it is important to have someone in addition to the Equity Task Force, which is primarily composed of community members, to work on diversity and equity issues.
“Equity work is the work of all of our staff, but we feel like it is really critical to have somebody in the district that is constantly helping inform this work, providing professional development, interacting with our community on a regular basis so that we continue to hear from different voices in our community,” he said.
He said the equity officer might also bring attention to additional issues surrounding equity in the district.
“There are a lot of things already in motion that this person will certainly engage in pretty quickly, and it would be my expectation that this person would come in and help us identify some other areas that we need to focus on,” he said.
Wirt said the job description was inspired by those of chief equity officers in other school districts across the country.
“We worked together internally and again looked at some job descriptions for chief equity officers from around the country and worked as a staff to develop the job description we have,” he said.
Brenda Stephens, chairperson of the board, said in an email that she is delighted about the position.
“The chief equity officer position will lead the efforts of Orange County Schools to create a space that will enable courageous conversations as well as lead OCS’s diversity and inclusion initiatives,” she said in an email.
Wirt echoed Stephens’ excitement.
“We’re certainly thankful to have this position and excited to find the right person that can get in here and really help us continue to move the work forward,” he said.
Applicants are required to have a master’s degree in education administration, public policy, social work or a related area along with a minimum three years of professional experience in equity, diversity and inclusion issues. They should have knowledge of culturally responsive teaching practices and are preferred to be able to speak and write fluently in a second language.
Wirt said there is currently not a timeline in place for the position, but school board members have posted the job listing locally, statewide and nationally.
“Obviously we’d like to have someone in place sooner than later, but I think we’re going to have to be patient to find the right person,” he said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.