School board directors (left to right) Camille Diaz Hackler, Kelly Bashaw, Jenn Mason and Doug Benjamin attend the Aug. 2019 Back-to-School Staff Kick-off

The following interview with school board directors Camille Diaz Hackler and Kelly Bashaw was published in the Fall 2019 edition of InsideSchools, the community newsletter of Bellingham Public Schools.

Why have a race and equity policy?

Camille Diaz Hackler: I think the majority of people don’t think about race and equity because they don’t have to; they have that luxury. The new policy acknowledges that there are historically marginalized groups, and we need to do better by interrupting factors that perpetuate inequities.

Kelly Bashaw: Part of our responsibility as a board is to measure improvement and understand how the superintendent is helping our district move these efforts forward. We know this work is happening, for example, the annual Latinx festival and the new Youth Pride Parade. Having a new policy formalizes it and hopefully makes it easier to continue and grow this work.

One aspect of the new policy focuses on increasing workforce diversity reflective of our students. Why is a diverse staff called out specifically?

Hackler: I remember hearing from a student last year who talked about the value of having staff in our schools who looked like them. I think it’s important growing up to have teachers and other staff who represent you and your family, whether it’s your teacher, bus driver, food service staff or the principal.

Bashaw: There is data that shows when your school staff reflects the students you are serving, students are more likely to go to college. Even if it’s just one person. If it’s two or more staff members in a school, the numbers increase significantly.

Can you share any other reflections about the race and equity policy?

Bashaw: I’m excited to receive our first report from the superintendent, and I’m also interested in hearing from our community about the policy itself. We can revise it if they have suggestions.

Hackler: I hope this policy has an impact on our community beyond just the walls of our schools. What some may think of as an innocuous phrase can be harmful. “Those kids” is a phrase that we need to replace with “our kids.”

Bashaw: This work is about the next generation. We’re setting an example because most people don’t realize how many privileges they have, and we need to actively confront institutional bias.

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