Henrico County Public Schools is creating a new Office of Equity and Diversity, and will hire a director-level position to oversee it. The news comes as the county continues to investigate a racially-charged incident that occurred at Short Pump Middle School last month. However, the school system says the post was already in the works and will help move HCPS closer to its goals.
The new director of equity and diversity will oversee Henrico Schools’ efforts at increasing equity and diversity across the school division. Superintendent Patrick C. Kinlaw made the announcement Thursday evening at the School Board’s work session. The school division will also create the HCPS Equity and Diversity Task Force, a new group comprised of students, parents, staff and community members.
“This will move us closer to our goals,” said Kinlaw. “For several years we’ve adopted equity and cultural competency as one of our areas of focus and this is an important step. It complements and brings together the things that our schools are already doing and adds a strong and needed dimension.”
Among other responsibilities, the new director will develop, implement and assess the division’s short- and long-range cultural diversity plans in pursuit of the division’s goals, and coordinate related professional development for staff members. He or she will collaborate with other HCPS departments on academic programs and curricula; help to recruit and retain a diverse workforce; serve as a contact point for parent and employee concerns about cultural diversity; connect with community organizations; and serve as a coach and trainer for students, families and employees on cultural diversity issues. The director will also facilitate the new Equity and Diversity Task Force.
The school division will forge new relationships with some community groups on issues of equity and diversity. HCPS will also expand its work with the nonprofit Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The organization will provide Henrico Schools with ongoing guidance and support with challenges such as bullying, equity, racial relations, harassment, ethics and cultural responsiveness. The group was recognized in 2013 and 2016 by the General Assembly for its work with schools, businesses and communities.
Formation of the new Equity and Diversity Task Force will begin when the new director has been hired. Task force members may apply or be nominated for consideration. More details about the process will be announced in January, HCPS said in a news release.
The position is expected to be posted and advertised beginning this week.