District 24 continues diversity efforts


Valley Stream District 24 announced new diversity hiring initiatives on Dec. 15, including additional hiring data collection, and the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, committee. 

The measures represented a continuing effort over the past two months since more than two-dozen parents and residents packed a Board of Education meeting in October, and called on officials to address teacher diversity concerns in a district where 86 percent of children are students of color and 95 percent of teachers are white.

District 24 board trustee Donna LaRocco, said the idea to create a DEI committee came after she recently attended a workshop on institutional racism.

“Most school districts across the state are establishing DEI committees,” she said, “and I think this is something we should do in District 24.” The board unanimously agreed, and although the exact details of the committee’s makeup and mandate were not immediately available, Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Sturz said its formation would be getting underway over the next month. Any official strategic plan to address hiring a more diverse body of teachers in the district, he said, would likely come from the committee.

Sturz also announced that the district had begun collection of additional data regarding its hiring practices. While he said not enough information had been gathered to draw any conclusions, he believed it would prove useful to the newly formed committee, and allow its members to gauge the effectiveness of district hiring initiatives.

The developments came on top of announcements the previous month of a slate of new diversity hiring initiatives including more direct partnerships with colleges and universities, and the expansion of online job application options to make it easier for teachers to apply, among others.

District 24 parent Cristina Arroyo, who has led the calls for greater teacher diversity in the district, said the steps were a move in the right direction.

“It’s evident that the school administration is committing to greater transparency, accountability and inclusion,” she said, “and this is the sort of bold leadership we need to dismantle a system that has excluded BIPOCS [Black, indigenous people of color] for decades through anemic recruitment efforts and sanctioned friends-and-family hiring.”

Arroyo is also founder of the local advocacy non-profit, the Valley Stream Justice Project.