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Charter Board Partners

Building, Engaging, and Activating a Community:  CBP’s Upcoming Convening for Board Members of Color

January 26, 2017 | by Carrie C. Irvin

On February 1, Charter Board Partners is hosting a convening of public charter school board members of color in Washington, DC. 

Some charter schools in DC, and a large swath of the education reform movement nationally, have struggled to genuinely engage and work with communities of color in the effort to improve public schools.  UNCF, among other organizations, has highlighted the disconnect between ed reformers and the communities of color most of us serve. We think boards can be part of the solution to this problem, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to talk with this group of board members about issues related to diversity, inclusion, and race on charter school boards.  The discussion will touch on issues including:

·       To what extent is your experience on your board shaped by being a person of color? 

·       Is your board inclusive of differing perspectives?

·       Do you think that your board’s discussions and decisions are different/better because you as a person of color are on the board?  How racially diverse is your board?  Would board discussions be different/better if there were more people of color on the board along with you?

·       Do you feel your board is connected to the students and families it serves?  Do you think your board is engaged with the community?  Do you think more diverse boards are more likely to be connected with the communities they serve? 

·       Does your board discuss issues involving race, racism, bias, discrimination, etc.? 

·       Are there values tensions for charter board members of color inherent in being part of the charter movement, in the context of concerns by some civil rights/social justice organizations about charter schools? 

We are thrilled that four nationally recognized leaders in the education reform movement – Deborah McGriff, Sekou Biddle, Rick Cruz, and Nicole Baker Fulgham – will kick off these discussions by sharing their personal stories of serving on boards and their thoughts about why diverse boards are stronger and make decisions that better serve students. 

We believe these are critically important conversations, as education reform continues to intertwine in inescapable and important ways with issues of social justice, race, bias, privilege, and equity. Public charter schools serve a diverse student population and are governed by independent boards; we believe those boards should be diverse as well, and must deal head-on with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Diverse boards are stronger boards.  Research and experience across sectors point to the strengths of diverse groups in decision-making.  The Business Roundtable recently added a statement to its Principles of Corporate Governance on the importance of board diversity and its ability to “strengthen board performance and promote the creation of long-term shareholder value.”

And BoardSource, the nation’s leading authority on nonprofit governance best practices, includes diversity and inclusion as one of its leading best practices:

The board should be intentional in its recruitment and engagement of diverse board members and foster a culture of inclusivity.  To value diversity is to respect and appreciate race; religion; skin color; gender and gender identity; ethnicity; nationality; sexual orientation; physical, mental, and developmental abilities; age; and socioeconomic status. Boards should commit to diversity and inclusion by establishing written policies and practices, subject to regular evaluation, that address strategic and intentional recruitment and engagement of diverse board members and ongoing commitment to inclusivity, including equal access to board leadership opportunities.

It’s less important that every board mirror the demographics of its students exactly, and more important that across this city (and country), we have a diverse and dynamic network of board members who bring a variety of perspectives, skills, experiences, and backgrounds to their schools, and that they handle issues like academic achievement, discipline, access, special education, leadership, and culture with an awareness of –  and sensitivity to – race, racism, bias, and equity.  We want to help boards do that (it’s hard!), and we think this convening is an important part of that work. 

If you are a board member of color in Washington, DC and would like to attend this event, please email Sid Smith at ssmith@charterboards.org by COB on Monday, January 30.