FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — The Hamilton Southeastern Schools district has hired a chief equity and inclusion officer.
The move comes as the state and nation look more closely at what it means to have an equitable and inclusive society.
Nataki Pettigrew is already at work. The coronavirus pandemic slowed down the but
The conversations about equity, Pettigrew said, matter now just as much as before the coronavirus pandemic began, and expanding this type of work should be considered not only a noble goal but also essential.
Education isn’t new to Pettigrew. She’s taking her 20 years of experience in education and administration into her new role at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. The position, created in 2019, focuses on developing inclusive practices that create space for diverse staff, and student body recruitment and retention.
“I always believe that we are not powerless to change. We can make the change. We can decide how we are going to collectively move the needle and turn the ship”
The halls and classrooms serve as meeting grounds for some tough but necessary conversations. “You encourage the discomfort because if we stay in a comfortable place, we don’t change; and I’m often reminded that people dismiss what they are afraid of or what they don’t clearly understand, and equity work is just that.”
Equity and cultural competency, district leaders said, has been a priority. As protests denouncing police brutality, racial injustice, equity and inclusion picked up steam, these types of conversations continued to take center stage. Adults are watching and so are the kids.
“If we’re talking about what it means to make change in the world, to really cultivate civic engagement, It’s important to implement equity here in the suburbs and in urban areas.”
The Hamilton Southeastern Schools district sits in one of the states so-called middle- to high-income communities, but, with a diverse student body, the need to build equity doesn’t lose value.
“Who are the students that don’t have access to equity?” she said. “Who are the students that are having poor outcomes, and then we change our plans change our policies and make it so that all students feel welcome.”
Before taking on this role, Pettigrew worked to ensure district instruction and program standards aligned with cultural relevance. Teachers have also started with equity coaches.