The Loudoun County School Board unanimously approved a list of members for the Ad Hoc Committee on Equity Tuesday night.
The equity committee members are tasked with reviewing LCPS policies and practices to enhance equity. The board also intended 26-member committee be made up of people representative of the diversity in Loudoun, specifically allowing for voices of historically underrepresented groups to be heard.
The committee will look at topics such as diversity in hiring, disproportionate discipline, under-representation of certain minority groups in gifted programming and curriculum.
The approval of committee members was previously delayed because several representative seats remained empty. The full board on Tuesday considered a list with all 26 members listed.
Board members Debbie Rose (Algonkian District), Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District) and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) expressed concern in including members representing faith communities.
Chris Croll (Catoctin District) said that while the Hindu community representative could be reworded requesting someone of the southeast Asian community, the representatives from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington were to represent secular, cultural interests of the group.
Several members of the Muslim community spoke before the board during public comment Tuesday, sharing concerns over the proposed new textbook for ninth grade world history that they said would spread misinformation about Islam by conflating the religion with terrorism.
Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District) said the concerns highlighted the need for Muslim perspectives on the equity ad hoc committee.
“This is a dialogue. This is an opportunity for dialogue, especially for those in our community that have been underrepresented, and that have issues with the curriculum, or staffing, or training, or any of the issues that affect our children. It’s a dialogue of sensitive topics,” Morse said.
Loudoun County Public Schools Chief of Staff Michael Richards also said Rabbi David Greenspoon has stated members of the Jewish community have had similar concerns about curriculum surrounding the Holocaust.
School Board members brought up that the representative for the Hindu community also serves on the Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, and several members of the committee identify as Christian, so should religion come into play, hopefully all major religions would be represented.
“I really believe that we can be neutral while we listen to concerns, so that we know the perception of the different members, not just our committee, but of our community at large,” Committee Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) said.
The board ultimately voted unanimously to approve the 26 members as:
-Three School Board members: Brenda Sheridan, Beth Huck and Chris Croll
-A Head Start or STEP parent: Veronica Orosco Jimenez
-Six members from school and non-school based staff: Charles Barrett, Shontel Simon, Kevin Tyson, Tara Hewan, Perla Arias and Fatima Schere
-Three parents selected for their experience and education: Charlotte McConnell, Zerell Johnson-Welch and Omari Faulkner
-One member from the Gifted Education Advisory Committee (GEAC): Jill Rodeffer
-Four members identified by the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC): Wendy Caudle Hodge, Katrecia Nolen, Natalia Beardslee and Kellee Jenkins
-One member from the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC): Amy Elledge
-One member from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS): Rizwan Jaka
-One member from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC): David Greenspoon
-One member from the Hindu community, nominated by a member of that community: Rajesh Gooty
-One member of the Hunt District PTA: Tiffany Feagin
-One member of nominated by the Loudoun NAACP: Robin Burke
-One member of the Latinx community, nominated by a member of that community: Jose Celis
-One non-voting staff liaison: Lottie Spurlock
The committee will meet for the first time at 5:30 p.m. April 4 at the LCPS Administration Building in Ashburn. Sheridan invited public participation at the meeting and said the discussion would be livestreamed.
“We want to hear what you have to say about what we’re addressing, and if we’re doing the right thing and we’re taking the right course,” Sheridan said.
LCPS is also conducting an equity audit of the school system, and Superintendent Eric Williams previously announced implicit bias training will be mandatory for all employees.
Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee Chairwoman Wendy Hodge addressed the board during public comment with four recommendations from the committee, as LCPS works to rebuild trust with minority families: that Williams provide a timeline for LCPS employees to complete implicit bias training, for the findings of the equity audit to be made public, for the equity ad hoc committee to be positioned to effect change quickly and aggressively and for the equity ad hoc committee be made a permanent committee.