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‘Nothing short of lifechanging’: Brockton students outraged over plan to slash DEI office

In World
April 15, 2024

BROCKTON — Brockton High School senior Amelia Vieira — a student ambassador for the school district’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office — often speaks with her fellow students about the challenges they face inside the school and relays those issues back to the EDI office staff.

“For many of my peers and for myself, the EDI program has been nothing short of lifechanging,” Vieira said at an April 9 Brockton School Committee meeting. “It provided us with a platform to share our experiences and our voices and affect change within our school community.”

“We discovered a sense of purpose that previously eluded us.”

Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Amelia Vieira speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024 about the impact of the district's decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Amelia Vieira speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024 about the impact of the district’s decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

What’s being cut in EDI office?

But now Brockton Public Schools is planning to cut and restructure that EDI office — which is currently comprised of three employees and an assistant superintendent — amid budget constraints as the district tries to reduce the roughly $25 million projected deficit in its Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

By this June, Brockton Public Schools will remove two positions within the department, and the assistant superintendent who oversees the department will be reclassified as a director-level role, said school district officials. The department’s family engagement specialist won’t be impacted by the reshuffle.

“Moves like these, while never easy, are part of [Acting Superintendent James] Cobbs’ and the district’s larger effort to reimagine staffing and services in a way that is responsive to budget challenges while not having a direct impact on students’ day-to-day classroom experience,” said Brockton Public Schools Director of Communications Jordan Mayblum in a statement to The Enterprise.

Brockton has striking racial disparity Mostly white teachers and mostly students of color

What does the EDI office do?

The district’s EDI program works on several initiatives to improve the working and academic environment within Brockton schools. It provides staff with trainings on issues like racial inequity, implicit bias and anti-Blackness. The office was also created in part to “decolonize” the district’s curriculum and help support students and families around race and racial trauma.

“The EDI department is critical to our community considering we are one of the most diverse communities there are,” said Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Marcos Gomes at the April 9 meeting.

Gomes credited the EDI office with giving him the courage to speak publicly in forums like the School Committee meeting.

“A lot of people do not feel included every day they come here. I can hear it in the hallways … I feel like the EDI program has really changed that,” he said.

“You’re taking away the student voice that is really needed for you guys to know what you need to change in the school,” he said.

Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Marcos Gomes speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024, about the impact of the district's decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Marcos Gomes speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024, about the impact of the district’s decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

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87% students of color in Brockton

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, students of color make up over 87% of the total Brockton Public Schools student body, while roughly 12% of students are white. Meanwhile, the majority of staff in BPS – nearly 72% – are white while just 28% identify as teachers of color.

“In our schools, where diversity is the norm and not just the exception, the need for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives is critical. These programs serve as hope for students who seek a sense of belonging and acceptance,” Vieira said.

“The recent cuts to positions with our EDI program are and should be deeply troubling,” said Vieira.

Mayblum said the new director position and the family engagement officer will continue to provide staff, students and families with services the EDI offfice offers.

“We remain very much committed to the EDI office’s work and its overall mission,” Mayblum said.

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Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Amelia Vieira speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024 about the impact of the district's decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Brockton High School senior and student ambassador Amelia Vieira speaks to the Brockton School Committee on April 9, 2024 about the impact of the district’s decision to cut positions in its office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

$62 million in the hole? Brockton schools on track for staggering deficits. What we know

When was the department created?

The office was created in early 2021 using a $250,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to address racism and COVID-19 inequities in its education system.

Brockton Public Schools announced the creation of the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Department in a news release in December, 2020, that said:

“District leadership has committed to establishing a DEI Office this school year, and fully sustaining it as a permanent part of the district’s organizational structure.”

But in August 2023, the school district announced a bombshell budget deficit of roughly $18 million from last school year that is contributing to a projected $25 million deficit in this year’s budget and a projected $7 million to $19 million deficit next year. BPS’s business office has been working to investigate the overspending and find ways to cut costs to offset the future deficits.

“It is more than just an item in a budget,” Vieira said at the April 9 meeting. “It is a solace for those of us who have long been silenced. Let us not move back in time.”

“Many of us feel as though our voices are being silenced once again,” Vieira said.

This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Brockton Public Schools slashing equity diversity and inclusion office

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