School District Aims to Hire Equity and Inclusion Officer

La Cañada Unified School District officials have started their search for an “equity and inclusion officer,” months after some students were investigated for allegedly using discriminatory and offensive language at basketball games during the season.
In late March, the LCHS administration concluded an investigation concerning behavior at a CIF championship game and determined that “a slur” and repeated profanity were used. Discipline was issued, officials said. There had been another, earlier investigation in December, after an adult reported to the district hearing racist jeers by LCHS student fans against players on the opposing team during a tournament game.
In its March monthly issue, the Spartan student newspaper at LCHS published a survey about racism, sexism and homophobia in the basketball season’s aftermath, with about half of respondents reporting having experienced or witnessed offensive behavior.
As to whether the creation of an equity and inclusion position is directly related to events earlier this year, district Superintendent Wendy Sinnette responded by email that “The board and cabinet’s decision-making is continuously informed by all events which take place within LCUSD. Our decisions are guided by efforts to build a culture of continuous improvement in the district and we believe that this position will contribute to that.”
Sinnette was addressing questions to her and district governing board President Brent Kuszyk about creating the position in the wake of the basketball games, the March 18 edition of the Spartan, and letters written to both The Outlook and the student paper.
Kuszyk did not respond to The Outlook as of press time on Wednesday.
The Spartan reported that more than 500 students responded to its survey. Among those who answered specific questions, 52.8% said they had seen or experienced racism at LCHS, 53.4% reported seeing or experiencing sexism at the school and 60.2% said they had seen or experienced homophobia there.
According to the district’s job description, the new officer will oversee “the development and implementation of proactive equity, inclusion and diversity initiatives in support of La Cañada Unified School District’s vision and mission to create learning and working environments committed to personal growth, academic excellence and core values of inclusion, wellness and empathy.”
The district is offering a one-year contract, effective August through next June. The deadline to apply for the position, which pays $55,000-$95,000, is noon on Tuesday, July 30.
The officer also “oversees program development, which addresses needs and identifies training initiatives and experiences for students on cultural competency, gender difference, disability, sexual harassment, inclusion and diversity, and other topics designed to increase awareness and support of equity and inclusion values aimed to support the quality of campus life at each school site.”
Besides LCHS, the district has three elementary schools and a middle school, LCHS 7/8.
When asked why the position is for one year or if it could be made permanent, Sinnette said that “the benefit of an independent services contract is that it allows the district to assess its needs on an annual basis. An independent services contract does not become a permanent position, but it can be extended with board direction and funding.”
Sinnette said the position would not oversee future incidents involving behavior at high school sporting games.
“The supervision, oversight of students’ appropriate behaviors, and resultant discipline if there are infractions, are the responsibility of the site administration,” Sinnette said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many applications have been received because Debra Cradduck, the executive director of personnel, is on vacation, Sinnette said in the email.
No health benefits, permanent status rights or membership in the La Cañada Teachers Association or the California School Employee Association are associated with the independent services contract position, she said.
The position was unanimously approved at a June 25 governing board meeting with no discussion about the basketball games or the Spartan survey.
The position would be 40% to 60% of a full-time position. Those interested are asked to submit a letter of interest (including desired full-time position request), resume, at least three current letters of recommendation and a draft services proposal. The resume should include references with contact information. Mailed submissions can be addressed and sent to:
Wendy Sinnette, Superintendent
La Cañada Unified School District
4490 Cornishon Ave.
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

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