In the 18 months since Dr. Charmie Curry, Director of Wellesley’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) department, has been on the job, her office has done much with little. The department’s stated purpose is “to ensure that all students, employees, and families understand the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and can apply this understanding to how they interact with the community.” But without a budget of its own, Curry and her staff have been left to do that work by scrambling for grant funding, seeking out partnerships, and relying on allocations from the town’s discretionary funds.
During a virtual Jan. 26th School Committee meeting, a line-up of six community members waited their turn during Citizens Speak to ask for a change in how the department is funded. Specifically, the speakers encouraged the School Committee to allow $100,000 in funding for the department as a separate line item in the budget going forward.
One speaker said that allowing the department to run without a dedicated budget creates inefficiencies, as well as a barrier to accountability. “DE&I leaders shouldn’t have to scramble to fund each program” Peter Linkow said. Linkow, who has worked as a consultant on DE&I strategy for 20 years, suggested that allowing the department to operate in that way demonstrates a lack of commitment on the part of the School Committee.
Wellesley Middle School 8th grader Evelyn Harrison said that the lack of a budget “does not portray a positive image about the prioritization of DE&I work to the community.”
Harrison compared the DE&I programs to other school programs deemed essential. “Art and music are in the budget because we’ve established they are important to students, so how should DE&I be considered any different?” she asked.
The DE&I page on the WPS website includes information on some of the ways in which the department works to confront and interrupt inequity. Some of its initiatives include the Annual Race Equity Challenge; ongoing work on the DE&I Leadership Council; responding to bias-based incidents; staff diversity efforts; and more.
Advocates or more DE&I funding have been circulating a letter for signatures, and sent it to the School Committee and School Department earlier this week, cc:ing the Select Board and Advisory Committee.
Dr. Curry is slated to provide a DE&I update at the Feb. 2 Wellesley School Committee meeting.