Thank you for your letter and continued advocacy in support of racial equity in schools.
I am keenly aware of the role race plays in unequal education inside our district and am deeply committed to learning and accessing resources that interrupt and transform systems that get in the way of student learning and thriving. This includes my lived experiences and my consistent personal journey in deepening my understanding of race and advancing racial equity.
The final vote to fill the CHCCS BOE seat was the culmination of an extended process that included multiple meetings during which the board shared criteria (including racial equity) we would use to consider candidates. I also acknowledge that I could have shared more of my considerations in the final meeting, and I commit to doing so more publicly going forward. In that spirit, I would like to outline what went into my decision-making in this appointment process. (Please note, I am responding as an individual board member, not on behalf of the board.)
The process began with the development of questions drafted by the board to learn about candidates. The board considered many factors including racial equity, experience in CHCC schools, experience in education and experience in advocacy for underrepresented students and families such as students with disabilities, among others.
These considerations are exemplified by the questions board members prioritized in interviewing to make decisions on moving candidates forward in the process. I will review them:
- How do you make decisions, and how do you incorporate the thoughts and perspectives of others in the process?
- Grappling with the impact of COVID-19 on our schools, what would you like to ensure a recovery plan includes?
- How do you balance both immediate and long-term needs?
- How would you prioritize actions to immediately address disparate discipline and/or opportunity gaps? List three steps you think the district could take in the next year to do so.
- The role of a board member involves many aspects beyond scheduled meetings. How do you envision your role as a board member in the community?
Prior to the public interviews, the board created an application process that again included consideration of the many factors relevant to board service. In the application, candidates were asked to answer four questions:
- What experience would you bring that would support the work of the board, and why do you want to serve on the board? Please include any previous board experience you have.
- What do you see as the top 3-5 priorities in the district?
- What have you done to promote diversity and/or inclusion, and how would you prioritize programs that support historically underserved students in our district as a board member, including supporting students with disabilities?
- What investments have you made in developing your understanding of issues around race, particularly as they pertain to addressing the challenges our district faces?
The answers to these questions heavily factored into my consideration as I assessed candidates, and we were fortunate to have a number of well-qualified candidates.
Additionally, over the next few months that this vacancy will cover, the board faces complicated decisions of how to safely return to in-person instruction as we recover from a global pandemic environment and must make quick decisions on a variety of related topics and others, including developing the district budget (we are in the middle of this process now). The experience of someone who has been engaged in these processes will be invaluable, and in a few months, the filing period will open for another board seat that will be open. This presents an opportunity to continue to build racial equity and board expertise.
In making the final decision on the selection, I chose a highly qualified, well-respected candidate who has spent years volunteering and advocating in support of CHCCS students, a candidate who has been engaged in developing and deepening her learning about racial equity and using her voice to elevate equity issues, as well as a candidate who has deep knowledge of the issues faced by the special-needs community.
Looking forward, I will focus on increasing transparency in decision-making and continuing my racial learning journey, and I thank you for continuing to promote racial equity and transparency in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
As a retired teacher, parent of children educated in the CHCCS, and resident of Chapel Hill for over 20 years, I am so happy in this day and time that we have such well educated and thoughtful citizens on our school board. In the late 60’s when I taught for a year in Albemarle County Public Schools, no one on the school board had a college education. No one cared about the children who were not the children of college professors, there were no jobs for children of color who graduated from high school in the county. I find Rani’s letter uplifting. To have people who care about equity and believe in the value of each human is for me a glimmer of hope that progress is being made. Thanks for everyone who works, volunteers and cares deeply about all our children.