Leander ISD’s Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion DeWayne Street is using the summer to implement the first stages of an action plan with the mission to provide equitable educational access and opportunity for every student every day.
Starting with a leadership development workshop – “Ethical Leadership and DEI” – for district and campus leaders, Street led attendees through a presentation and discussion focused on the themes of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In small groups, participants shared their reactions to an article that recounted the handling of a racially charged incident involving students and educators in another district. Street then brought the groups together for a broader conversation.
“I think for too long we’ve communicated to people that unless you are perfect, you can’t do this work,” Street said. “I think a lot of leaders at the workshop found out that this is a nuanced practice, and it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s where this office comes in as a resource and a partner, and we learn together.”
One goal of the DEI office is to challenge individuals to examine their practice as educators and administrators in order to identify and control for any biases. Street assured the leaders in attendance that the workshop was not a space for judgment, but for the beginning of a reflective journey – listening to and learning from one another.
“We all have blind spots,” Street said during the discussion portion of the workshop. “Having conversations like this helps us illuminate our blind spots.”
Throughout his presentation, Street emphasized the idea that all ethical and inclusive leaders ultimately draw others into a space of shared leadership and responsibility.
“What I want leaders to understand is that we can’t shy away from our responsibility to lead in the DEI space, but we also have to create space for the people who we are responsible for to lead as well,” Street said. “We need to transfer the ownership to them.”
Street continued this work in July as part of the district’s annual Leadership Retreat. Street also plans to begin DEI professional development workshops with more staff in the fall, expanding the reach of his office by bringing more people into the conversation.
“We want people to know that we’re partners. There’s no judgment here,” Street said. “We all are trying to solve a common problem so that every student in Leander ISD can benefit from the greatness of our district – and that takes everyone. And it starts with the leaders.”
For more information, visit the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion webpage.