Guest column: School board voice helps the workforce diversity conversation
Monday, May 3, 2021
The Oregon Educator Advancement Council controls $25 million annually to support education, making decisions that could deeply affect school districts.
Fortunately, school board members also have a say on the committee, and I have been privileged to be that voice since 2018.
The EAC, created by the Legislature, is made up of 24 members, four standing directors, three ex-officio members and 17 assigned seats with diverse roles. These include teachers, superintendents, a school board member, a tribal representative, and people from early learning, higher education, philanthropy and other areas.
Regional education networks that help educator diversity, learning and collaboration are a primary council support channel. The 10 networks are staffed though 10 education service district-based employees, and each region gets technical assistance grants. Another channel is the Oregon Teacher Scholars Program, which provides scholarships for university students in approved higher education programs who are multi-lingual or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). EAC staff members also generate the state’s annual Educator Equity Report.
The EAC members' diverse backgrounds have given me a better view and focus on the needs of educators across Oregon. The council represents viewpoints from all levels of education, and this diversity of voice and the resulting engagement between educators and advocates have been strong and valuable.
An important experience for me on the EAC was being part of the committee that worked on the grant allocations plan. The committee proposed looking at district metrics in each region based on the experience and turnover of teachers and the ratio of student diversity to teacher diversity. I helped develop the spreadsheet with money allocation per district rolled into the regional education network framework. The council then distributed the remaining K-12 funds into technical assistance grants to each region to hire staff for meeting the goals.
The most important goal proposed to the networks was to focus on changing the work model in each region to increase and retain a diverse educator workforce. Each region was tasked with finding ways to increase the number of quality applicants for open teacher positions with a key focus on increasing diversity. Each network presented a plan to the council on how they would bring together all voices in the education workforce along with community voices. A key factor was to have a minimum of 50% teacher voice in the planning process.
Education leaders mostly accept that having a culturally and linguistically diverse teaching staff is critical for improving outcomes for all students, but especially for BIPOC students. I believe in this strongly and have participated in several workshops at OSBA conferences to promote this. The 10 networks have this as a primary focus, but this is also a community- and state-level endeavor. The community and all state-level organizations and agencies must believe and work toward diversity as a value for that vision to succeed.
The Legislature can show its support through funding assistance for teachers and education leaders to root out systemic racial issues and create an environment that increases cultural and language diversity in our schools. The EAC’s role is to ensure that investments are maximized to raise the level of our school staffs and improve the education of our children. If there is any frustration with the EAC, it is that it has not been able to do more.
I am honored to represent school board members on the EAC. This experience has made me not only a better board member but also a better community member working on improving Oregon’s education system. I have learned more about how policies and funding work within the Oregon Department of Education framework. Although I may disagree with some of ODE’s bureaucracy and controls, this council shows that school board members' input can help steer the Oregon education system toward equitable goals.
- Bill Graupp
North Marion School Board member
Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus vice president