Equity officers from school systems across the country recently convened in Atlanta to learn from one another, share experiences, and develop new resources for this fast-growing community of education leaders. An estimated two-thirds of the nation’s 100 largest school districts, including the 10 largest, have a dedicated equity officer on staff.
The Leadership Academy launched this Equity Officer Collective in January 2022 to build a sustainable community of practice and an online library of high-quality tools and resources that center the needs of equity officers while helping them navigate the complexities of their roles. The participants have been meeting virtually to delve into problems of practice, share personal experiences, and pool their collective expertise to build a suite of open source guidance connected to their roles. They will spend the second year of the collective deepening their skills, developing new resources, and mentoring one another. The collective is supported with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Equity officers are critical for ensuring equity is infused into every conversation, every decision, and every policy and practice across a school system, yet their work can be uniquely challenging and isolating. We hope this network provides the support and resources they need to truly effect transformative change,” said Dr. Mary Rice-Boothe, Access & Equity Officer at The Leadership Academy and author of an upcoming book, Leading Within Systems of Inequity in Education: A Liberation Guide for Leaders of Color to be published by ASCD in 2023.
Hosted by Atlanta Public Schools, this week’s convening of 18 equity officers featured speakers Tauheedah Baker-Jones, Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer for Atlanta Public Schools, and Nonet Sykes of Atlanta Beltline. A group of leaders presented on the ATL Neighborhood Thriving Project, a collaboration between Atlanta Public Schools’ equity officer and equity officers at other public institutions within Atlanta. Also speaking were Lisa Williams and Tracey Durant, former equity officers and two of the authors of Humanity Over Comfort, a guide on promoting transformational change that eliminates the access and opportunity gaps for Black and Brown individuals.
The Collective plans to release new guidance for equity officers on navigating their first few years on the job and pushing their work forward in a challenging political climate next month.