Eanes ISD students will serve on diversity advisory committee

Trustees met Aug. 25 to discuss the district's upcoming diversity, equity and inclusion committee. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Trustees met Aug. 25 to discuss the district's upcoming diversity, equity and inclusion committee. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Trustees met Aug. 25 to discuss the district's upcoming diversity, equity and inclusion committee. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Eanes ISD students, teachers, parents and district staff will soon have the opportunity to serve on an advisory group tasked with promoting racial and social awareness within the district.

The board of trustees presented the framework for the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, committee during an Aug. 25 virtual board meeting alongside Dr. Mark Gooden, the district’s newly appointed DEI consultant.

Gooden’s position was unanimously approved by EISD officials July 21 after several dozen community members publicly shed light on a history of problematic and racist behavior within the district, particularly at Westlake High School.

Since announcing the formation of a DEI committee, former and current students have advocated for an open and equitable selection process and have asserted that the chosen stakeholders should represent a diverse cross-section of the entire community.

Chaps for an Anti-Racist Eanes, or CARE, a new grassroots advocacy group, has also highlighted the importance of community involvement within the selection process. That concern was echoed by several community members during the meeting’s open forum session.

Trustees John Havenstrite and Ellen Balthazar volunteered during an Aug. 13 meeting to serve as a subcommittee to help form a DEI advisory group, which was met with further criticism from the community.

“Please understand that if only board members are included in this process, the board is revealing that they have not listened and understood the needs of the community,” said Lindsey Todd, a member of the EISD community, during the meeting’s open forum session.

Gooden acknowledged these concerns and emphasized the effort to implement a balance between the board’s responsibilities and the community’s input. He said the DEI committee will be comprised of a diverse group of 27 members, including four students, two community members who are not parents of current students, nine staff members, two principals, one administrator and nine district parents.

“[Applicants] will have an opportunity to really speak to us about what they see as aspects of their diversity that they think are important for this committee,” Gooden.

Students will also have the opportunity to contribute to DEI work within focus groups; however, officials did not announce a timeline for these groups.

Trustee Christie Bybee further stated the need for a racially diverse advisory group. She said she believes that in the past, community members of color have been hesitant to participate in district committees.

“I would hope we have a way to make sure that those people of color and people who don’t typically volunteer or sign up feel welcomed and valued,” Bybee said. “This is our time at Eanes. It’s our time to be a leader.”

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.