For the first time, the fast-growing community of school system equity officers will have access to a network and resources targeted specifically to support their efforts to transform schools and school systems. The Leadership Academy has been awarded a $1.2 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop sustainable communities of practice and an online library of high-quality tools and resources that center the needs of equity officers and school leaders of color while helping them navigate the complexities of their roles.
The Leadership Academy, a national nonprofit organization that supports the development of culturally responsive education leaders, will launch the two-year initiative in January. The project will address the critical need to support the growing number of equity officers and school leaders of color in operationalizing culturally responsiveness practices and dismantling inequities.
“Equity officers and school leaders of color are vitally important for advancing equity in schools, but too often they lack the support and resources needed to stay in their jobs and make real change,” said The Leadership Academy President & CEO Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez. “This project will create brave spaces and opportunities for community-building and mentorship in which leaders will be able to collectively strengthen their work. It takes this kind of intentionality to achieve success, and we are thrilled for the opportunity this grant affords.”
To create a thriving and supportive network of equity officers, The Leadership Academy will recruit and facilitate a group of leaders in this role who serve diverse regions and districts across the country. In the project’s first year, about 20 equity officers will meet virtually to delve into problems of practice, share personal experiences, and pool their collective expertise to build a suite of open source supports and guidance connected to their roles. In the second year, the cohort will focus on deepening their skills, developing new resources, and mentoring one another.
“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 focused on leaders of color to be published by ASCD.
The Leadership Academy will also use the grant to develop affinity groups for hundreds of school leaders of color. To start, The Leadership Academy will develop the affinity group facilitation skills of about 20 leaders, who will in turn facilitate additional school leader affinity groups. Themes for the affinity space will range from processing current events and implications for school leadership to discussions about assimilation and the impact of dominant culture. To provide additional spaces for learning, The Leadership Academy will also create an online space for exchanging ideas and sharing thought pieces, resources, and research. The online community space will also be used to facilitate an annual convening of participants where leaders will work to capture patterns and trends as well as develop new approaches to systemic problems of practice.