March: Equity in Education Month

Posted by Chantal Chandler on 3/30/2023

To provide high-quality education, a school system must have a high-quality workforce, which doesn’t happen accidentally. It requires a carefully crafted recruitment and hiring process.

This year, SSD has analyzed and reviewed the Office of Employee Success and Engagement (OESE) actions with the additional collaboration of the Offices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) and Communications. Together, these teams have developed and implemented hiring and retention best practices supporting equity and ensuring Special School District has the highest-quality workforce. 

One of these best practices is creating or revising detailed job descriptions to include language that promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility while describing job duties and responsibilities, qualifications, work experience, and educational requirements. As I mentioned in January, Communications began auditing OESE messaging and outreach, which inspired this closer review of job descriptions. 

Each description is screened to remove gender-specific language, simplify or remove jargon, and embed our DEIA values in the position overview and responsibilities. SSD’s equal opportunity employer statement has also been updated to better reflect our values. We have also established a Job Description Review Committee to assist with this work and provide valuable insights from departments across the District. Our descriptions must accurately outline the work of SSD, and they also need to reflect the mission and vision of our organization, particularly if we hope to attract a new generation of workers. 

Incorporating the DEIA lens throughout our hiring process is aided by using an applicant tracking system to identify applicants that meet the minimum job requirements. The system not only streamlines the hiring process, especially when many applicants are received, but it also ensures that only fully qualified applicants are considered for further screening. 

A racially and ethnically gender-diverse interview panel of three to five staff members trained in implicit bias, inclusion in decision-making, and ADA accommodation, are selected for each job opening. All jobs have a set of approved interview questions, and no questions are added or changed to ensure that all candidates are asked for the same information. Rubrics are also used to ensure that the interview panel has clear parameters for ranking.

Finally, adding an HR data analyst to the OESE team will allow us to closely monitor how we are doing in attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce. Using recommended measures, standardized check-in interviews, and establishing an open dialogue between our new hires and their success managers will help our organization continually improve and grow.

What is most important to remember as we celebrate Equity in Education Month is that the efforts SSD puts toward hiring with a DEIA lens benefits our students. We know that students feel more confident and safe when they are taught by and cared for by a diverse group of people at school. Countless studies have shown that students perform better, feel better, and develop more empathy when they learn in diverse environments. It helps us realize our mission of empowering all students to excel to their greatest potential.