LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District Board members Victoria Ruffin and Amanda Parrell rejected the creation of a job description for a director of equity.
The director of equity would serve under Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Shandelyn Williams as a member of the District’s leadership team.
“The Director will be responsible for coordinating and guiding efforts to define, understand, assess, foster and cultivate diversity. This position will also serve as a liaison between the community and the Antelope Valley Union High School District in the development of relationships and partnerships, as well as other duties as assigned,” according to the job description.
The position would pay about $128,100 a year and be funded with targeted funds.
Ruffin said teachers she spoke with would like a districtwide climate survey of students, staff and administrators to be reflective of their voices prior to consider hiring a director of equity.
However, the action before the Board was not to hire anyone for the position, but to approve the position itself.
“They believe that this is a great effort for the Board but they do not feel that the position from a director level will be met with severe change,” Ruffin said at Thursday’s meeting, which was broadcast on the District’s YouTube channel. “It would be a continuation of what has been,”
She moved for a Request for Proposal for a districtwide climate survey with a budget not to exceed $175,000 to be completed by the end of the calendar year.
“We already have $128,000 slated for the director’s position, which I am suggesting that we table or I’m outright going to vote no on it,” Ruffin said, “Because I do not believe that our district is in a space to really talk about diversity and equity on the level that we need to give it credit.”
Her motion failed on a 2-2 vote with Board Clerk Jill McGrady and Trustee John Rush dissenting. The subsequent vote to approve the new position also failed on a 2-2 vote, this time with Ruffin and Parrell dissenting.
Student trustee Elijaåh Johnson also supported the proposed director of equity position.
The District typically conducts three climate surveys per year. This past school year, because of campus closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District completed two surveys.
In addition, the Board on May 21, unanimously approved a $103,375 contract renewal with Qualtrics EDS. Qualtrics developed a series of proprietary computer software programs that facilitate and automate the process of conducting surveys, according to a description.
In spring 2018, the California School Boards Association quarterly publication, “California Schools,” highlighted the District’s success in using the climate surveys to effect change.
McGrady reminded the audience watching the meeting, that prior to the discussion of the director of equity position, the Board voted 2-2 with Ruffin and Parrell dissenting, to deny a provisional internship permit for Anthony Hunt, an African American man.
The permit would have allowed him to work as a special education teacher.
Hunt supported last year’s unsuccessful recall effort against Ruffin, Parrell and former member Robert “Bob” Davis. Hunt also addressed the Board last year in regard to pay raises for management and confidential employees that the former Board majority of Ruffin, Parrell and Davis denied.
“For those of you who haven’t been following what this Board has done, just a little over a year ago, the Board majority fired Bridget Cook,” McGrady said. “Bridget Cook was an African American woman who was our in-house counsel, the highest paid African American woman in our District.”
McGrady believes the District is taking a step in the right direction. “People, a committee of folks, came to us,” she said. “They asked us to put this together. They asked for a director of equity; we’ve been working on that. We put this together for a possible position for us. We think it’s a step in the right direction.”
McGrady said she saw no reason to spend $175,000 on something that would only further delay the creation of the position.
“Let’s get this started and start trying to heal, if you will,” she said.
Johnson said he wholeheartedly agreed with McGrady.