While planning for the unprecedented 2020-21 school year, the district has also made a commitment to rectify what several dozen alumni have called a history of racist behavior on EISD’s campuses.
With overwhelming support from the community, the board of trustees unanimously selected Dr. Mark Gooden on July 21 to serve as the official diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, consultant for the 2020-21 school year.
EISD also pledged to create a corresponding DEI advisory committee to guide in the district’s efforts.
Four main themes have emerged after conversations with staff, according to Gooden: current EISD practices, community beliefs, curriculum and support for students of color.
Though it is unclear exactly which stakeholders will be on the committee, Superintendent Tom Leonard noted that he will not have authority over the selection process. Rather, trustees Ellen Bathalzar and John Haventrite will work alongside Gooden as a “sub-committee” tasked with forming the advisory group.
Many trustees, including Heather Sheffield, emphasized their desire for Gooden’s guidance throughout the process.
“I definitely see the makeup of our board—you know, we are all white people,” Sheffield said. “I would appreciate your guidance ... on who to involve in order to make a great and very meaningful committee going forward.”
Gooden and board members expressed support for the idea of involving current students in the DEI group.
Within the EISD community, former and current students have advocated for an open and equitable selection process and have stated that the chosen stakeholders should represent a diverse cross-section of the community.
Chaps for an Anti-Racist Eanes, or CARE, a grassroots advocacy group, has also highlighted the importance of community involvement within the process.
“From the start, this work has been driven by the community, and the community should be involved in the selection process as well,” CARE stated in an email to its supporters.
The advisory committee will be brought in front of the board for discussion prior to finalization, according to Board President Jennifer Champagne.