Menlo Park City and Ravenswood School Districts announce Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by Parke Treadway on June 21, 2021

The Menlo Park City and Ravenswood School Districts, which collectively serve over 4,300 K-8 students in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton, announced a unique partnership to hire a Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. At its June 10 meeting, the MPCSD School District Board unanimously approved the addition of this new position to join the district’s leadership team for the 2021-22 school year.

This position, initially approved for one year, is funded by grant monies and is a partnership between the two districts and the San Mateo County Office of Education. The new DEI Coordinator will serve the two districts in service of their shared commitment to creating greater educational equity in the south peninsula and addressing systemic inequities that affect both districts.

Throughout the last school year, both MPCSD and RCSD have made initial steps in their antiracist journeys, including Board-approved statements against systemic racism and its effects. Ravenswood’s initial steps also include aligning its antiracist goals with its instructional core value of engagement.

The RCSD Educational Services department is focusing on incorporating culturally relevant teaching practices throughout the district. Culturally relevant pedagogy gives students the tools to make meaning of the curriculum and their own experience through the lens of culture and is shown to improve student outcomes.

MPCSD has worked to bring its antiracist goals to fruition through the district’s Antiracism Advisory team, a speaker series and complementary book clubs focused on issues of local racial equity, drawing participation from over 1,000 community members. The district also audited classroom materials and began developing resources for teachers and completed changes to the recruitment and hiring process to increase diversity among MPCSD’s staff.

The superintendents of both districts, Gina Sudaria in RCSD and Erik Burmeister in MPCSD, welcome the collaboration as an opportunity to engage and strengthen both communities. The partnership arose from the January 2021 speaker series “Race, Prejudice and Policy: A Conversation on Segregation and its Legacy on Education Around Menlo Park.”

The event co-produced by the districts with additional support from the Community Equity Collaborative and Menlo-Atherton High School explored topics such as redlining, district boundaries, and ways to move towards greater educational equity here in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and Atherton. The series reached over 1,000 community members and spun off a student-led panel discussion, sponsored by MAHS, about students’ perceptions of and solutions for greater equity.

The DEI position builds on that existing collaboration to begin honestly addressing the differences in opportunities and outcomes among our communities’ families. Ms. Sudaria states, “We are excited to share our expertise and build upon the work that has already taken place acknowledging the work ahead that both districts need to tackle to dismantle racist structures and practices that perpetuate inequities.” Mr. Burmeister adds, “This is a remarkable opportunity at an important time in both our districts’ histories; we have both been impacted by generations of systemic racism and racist policy, although in very different ways. We look forward to the collaboration and growing together in support of ALL students and families.”

The position is posted on EdJoin and interested candidates should submit their applications by June 30, 2021. After this initial “pilot” year, the MPCSD Board may consider extending the position past the first year using general funds if it sees fit to do so.

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