02/05/2020 by Brandie Melendez |

Hiring with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Mind

by Brandie Melendez, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Berkeley Carroll School

This is a piece from CS&A's winter focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools. Read more from this series here.

Here we are, embarking upon the height of the independent school hiring season — February through mid-April. It’s a challenging time of year because we are busy not only with filling open positions but also with all other aspects of school life — teaching classes, inspiring students, attending conferences, making admissions decisions, supporting faculty, running student-life programs, engaging with parents/guardians, and more. Yet, at this time of year, those with hiring responsibilities are engaged in some of our most important work as we strive to find and hire talented educators who will not only serve the school’s mission well but also help shape its direction for years to come. For schools that truly believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is essential and integrally connected to our ability to execute the mission and support students, it’s important at this time of year to carve out time for both reflection and thoughtful planning.

The essential question is this: Do our hiring processes reflect a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Schools that have the most success meeting their mission and diversity goals are those that take the time to ensure that the hiring process for every educator — staff members, teachers, senior administrators, or the head of school — is viewed through a DEI lens.

In my experience as a diversity practitioner, when hiring committees and those overseeing hiring in a school ask key questions at the start of the hiring season each year, they can sharpen their focus on exactly what qualities and skills they are looking for in all candidates. While I encourage schools to seek and hire candidates who will add to the diversity of perspectives represented in the community — particularly those of historically underrepresented and marginalized identities such as people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community — it’s also important that all new hires have a clear commitment to the school’s DEI efforts as well as demonstrated skills in this area.

With the above in mind, I offer the following questions for schools to consider as they identify and interview candidates:

  • Who has oversight of the school’s hiring process — and does this person or team have a clear vision of the DEI outcomes they hope to achieve through hiring?
  • Are all those engaged in hiring clear about the relationship between the school’s overall mission and its efforts to hire for DEI work?
  • Does the hiring committee represent a diversity of perspectives?
  • Independent of the core skills required for each open position, is the hiring team clear that every candidate is expected to have a commitment to equity? Does every job description note this, too?
  • What are you doing to ensure that candidates of color and members of other underrepresented communities are applying for openings at your school?
  • If working with a placement firm, are you being clear about your DEI-expectations for all candidates the firm presents?
  • Regarding your DEI goals, do you authentically convey how well you think your school is doing and what it still needs to achieve?
  • Have you developed standard questions to ask every candidate?
  • Will these questions help you ascertain each candidate’s understanding, experience, and fluency with DEI work?
  • How exactly do you communicate to candidates your school’s expectations around engagement with DEI?
  • Is everyone on the hiring committee involved with asking DEI-related questions of candidates — or are you relying on your diversity director (or the people of color or members of underrepresented communities on the committee) to ask all DEI questions?
  • Is your process of collecting feedback about candidates designed to diminish the influence of implicit bias?
  • Who reviews the feedback and how will a final hiring decision be made?

There are many more questions we could ask, of course, but I highlight these because they are the ones that, in my experience, can be overlooked — especially when in a hurry to fill positions. Taken as a whole, these questions are designed to ensure that, with each hire, we are creating opportunities for those who embrace a school’s DEI mission and will contribute to building and maintaining a well-functioning inclusive community.

Our work related to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a long, steady journey with no definitive end line. Collectively, our job is to ensure that everyone in a school community is clear about our mission and the link to DEI work. This work happens on a number of fronts, including through board decision-making, professional development, curriculum and program review, anti-bias training, and the like. But one of the best ways to ensure a community-wide focus on DEI is to review the hiring processes annually through a DEI lens. Taking the time to do this review at the start of each hiring season will pay dividends over time — improving the overall culture and climate of our schools including academic excellence, student outcomes, parent and guardian experiences, educator job satisfaction, and more.

Brandie Melendez is in her sixth year as the Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Berkeley Carroll School, a pre-K – 12 independent school educating over 970 students in Brooklyn, New York. Her role centers on furthering efforts to create an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment within the school and ties directly to the mission of the school to prepare students for “…a life of critical, ethical, and global thinking.”

Prior to joining Berkeley Carroll, Brandie held a position as the Vice President of Human Resources with a 700 person IT firm, serving small and mid-size businesses where she was responsible for the human resources function including hiring, culture, and diversity and equity related initiatives.

Brandie is an Oliver Scholar Alumna, a graduate of the Horace Mann School, and holds a B.A. in psychology from Brown University. She is currently enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education MSEd School Leadership Program.

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