Parent sounds alarm to Vancouver school trustees over lack of diversity in district's senior management team

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      The following letter was written to Vancouver school trustees on April 19 by a parent who's concerned about the lack of diversity in the district's senior managment team:

      Dear VSB Trustees,

      I am writing to you as one of the many parents and non-parents in Vancouver who are concerned about the lack of ethnic diversity in the Senior Management Team at the VSB.

      On April 22, the City of Vancouver will be making a formal apology for its history of racism towards the Canadian Chinese. This would be an ideal time for the Vancouver School Board to also reflect on its own history of racism towards Chinese Canadians and other ethnic communities.

      There needs to be review and overhaul of VSB's current policies, procedures and practices that continue to be discriminatory towards ethnic communities. This would be a positive step forward for the district considering VSB's most recent round of hiring, recruiting and promoting practices that have not resulted in any change towards a more ethnically diverse senior management team at VSB.

      It's hard to believe it's 2018 when looking at the Senior Management Team at the VSB. The district should be concerned over possible comments such as #vsbsowhite and #whyvsbsowhite.  The SMT at the VSB does not reflect Vancouver's ethnically diverse student population nor the City's demographics and has done little or nothing to change this over the years.

      This issue has been brought up numerous times over the past 6 months when VSB began its hiring process for a new Superintendent and other SMT positions.

      It is further frustrating and insulting to listen to excuses from the VSB stating that there were no candidates of colour that were of the "quality" that the VSB was looking for. It is obvious that the VSB process does not value the strengths that an ethnically diverse candidate could bring to the SMT.

      The reality according to many studies is that the excuse of "quality" is in actuality, a systematic weeding out of people of colour in the managerial pipeline. VSB needs to look at how teachers are being or not being promoted and how their practices at the school level are barriers for educators from diverse ethnic backgrounds to succeed and move up through the managerial ranks.

      There are obvious barriers given the continued lack of ethnic diversity in the SMT. It is not believable that there are no qualified candidates from different ethnic communities that have the education, experience and interest in a high paying position as a member of the SMT at the VSB. Rather, it is the process and the organization that is flawed.

      Here is a very insightful article that the School Board Trustees and hiring staff at the VSB should read. Although VSB seems to pride itself in achieving gender equality, this achievement though commendable, was not much of a stretch to achieve, given the teaching profession is dominated by women. As many of the Trustees are new to the Board, parents sincerely hope that you will do more to root out the colour barriers that still exist at the VSB and make the necessary changes through proactive hiring of recruiters that specialize in ethnic diversity hiring.

      My point in continuing to bring this important issue up to DPAC [District Parent Advisory Committee] and Trustees is because the message the VSB is sending to our students is that if they don't look like the senior staff then they are not the quality of staff that they value or would promote into these senior positions. It would also be interesting to review how many of the support staff at VSB are from ethnic communities. This would be another telling piece of information regarding who the VSB views belong in support positions and who belongs in leadership positions.

      At this time, the VSB should freeze any further hiring/promoting of senior management positions and/or consultants until a thorough review is completed of its hiring practices. Hiring should be done through recruiting organizations that specialize in finding candidates from diverse ethnic backgrounds that are qualified and can review VSB hiring practices and policies to identify any racial bias.

      It has been obvious that this lack of insight and cultural insensitivity has resulted in the mishandling and the inevitable demise of the Early Mandarin Bilingual high school program as well as the botched renaming of Crosstown Elementary school. It is also hypocritical for the VSB to spend thousands of dollars to recruit foreign students from mostly Asia for their tuition fees and then treat Canadians of Asian heritage in such a manner.

      On April 22, VSB should reflect on its own past and current discriminatory actions. We all believe and hope the VSB Trustees and SMT can and should do better.

      Sincerely,

      B. Lee

      B. Lee is a parent with a child in the Vancouver school system.

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