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In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, left, Yvania Garcia-Pusateri discusses efforts to expand diversity initiatives at Springfield Public Schools.
SBJ photo by Geoff Pickle
In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, left, Yvania Garcia-Pusateri discusses efforts to expand diversity initiatives at Springfield Public Schools.

SPS diversity officer seeks board OK to expand strategic plan

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Ahead of tonight’s Springfield Public Schools Board of Education meeting, the school system's first chief equity and diversity officer this morning outlined her recommendation to expand the district's strategic plan.

Yvania Garcia-Pusateri, who has held the role since September, has conducted a listening and learning tour and held focus groups with SPS staff and students to develop her proposal. The board is slated to vote at its meeting today on Garcia-Pusateri's recommendation to add a fifth focus area, on equity and diversity, to the district's strategic plan.

“The work for equity and diversity has always been done in the district,” said Garcia-Pusateri, speaking as Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to Know monthly guest. “Even though the work has been done, how do we make sure that it's there right smack in the middle of the strategic plan? How do you make it more symbolic; how do you make it more transparent?”

Garcia-Pusateri presented her findings and proposal at the board's April 21 meeting, with Superintendent John Jungmann saying the district's administration believes it's the "right next step" to add equity and diversity to the strategic plan. Garcia-Pusateri's comments, which start around the 5-minute mark in the streamed board meeting, are available to view here.

Speaking this morning in an interview livestreamed on Facebook with SBJ Editorial Director Eric Olson, Garcia-Pusateri said she felt board members were receptive.

"We have some things ready to start. It's just a matter of it being approved," she said. "I hope that they would want to expand the strategic plan. I believe they're supportive of this."

According to a staff survey Garcia-Pusateri conducted, 60% of respondents were satisfied with the district's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. And 50% separately said they're satisfied with current initiatives.

“That 50% lends an opportunity. How do we grow those opportunities? How do we as an office … ensure that our messaging is getting out to the schools and getting out to families and getting out to community members, too,” she said this morning. “That’s an opportunity for partnership.”

Among planned expansion efforts would be the hiring of a coordinator for equity and diversity to report to Garcia-Pusateri on diverse workforce efforts. Additionally, Garcia-Pusateri said recruitment and retention programming is in the works, as well as culturally relevant curriculum and advocacy.

"Diversity is an important aspect of who we are as people," said Garcia-Pusateri. "If you want a diverse workforce, we have to have a diverse way of thinking."

The district's current four-pronged strategic plan focuses on student success and learning support; the empowerment of effective teachers, leaders and support personnel; financial sustainability and operational efficiency; and communication and engagement, according to SPS.org.

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