RICHMOND, VA (WRIC) — Not a single person of color works in leadership at the state agency responsible for overseeing all of Virginia’s public schools.
An audit of the Virginia Department of Education reveals a serious lack of diversity at the executive level. The audit conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), uncovered all 13 staff members in senior leadership positions , assistant superintendent level or higher, are white. Seven of the 13 senior leaders are male.
“The agency leadership lacks minority representation,” said Joseph McMahon, Project Leader for the JLARC review.
38% of VDOE’s workforce are minorities. McMahon said many employees have expressed concerns about the lack of diversity. They told him, “that lack of diversity could hinder their ability to fully understand the challenges facing racial minority students.”
JLARC has recommended VDOE develop a plan to gain more racially diverse applicants.
“The recommendation is one thing but how and when we will we know that they have followed through and know that there are more people of color on their staff,” said Senator Lionell Spruill–(D) Chesapeake.
Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Doctor James Lane told lawmakers during a virtual meeting to discuss the JLARC audit that the issue is already being looked at.
“We have also created a position for a Director of Equity, we have been doing anti-racism and inclusion training with all of the staff,” Lane said.
The audit also found Virginia’s teacher shortage is on-going and VDOE is not doing enough to help school districts recruit and retain teachers.
As a result, the report found positions are left unfilled, resulting in larger classes sizes In Brunswick, 8% of the teaching positions are unfilled, in Franklin County 6% remain open.
“This remains a national challenge. Certainly, teacher pay is at the heart of this issue,” Lane said.
The report also found VDOE does not independently verify that school divisions are in compliance with state and federal standards. VDOE relies on self-certification which the JLARC report found may not allow the agency to be fully aware of non-compliance.
Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs found systemic non-compliance and violations by the VADOE in ensuring that students, families, and advocates are protected as intended by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.) They found noncompliance in program monitoring, addressing noncompliance issues, and problems with refusing parents due process in cases involving their special needs child.
Lane did tell lawmakers VDOE has included all of these issues in a new strategic plan for moving forward.
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