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Park City School District

Park City school board appears split about new diversity and equity position

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The Park City school board debated a $240,000 budget item that includes a new diversity, equity and inclusion position. Opinions appeared split on the issue.

Next year’s proposed budget for the Park City School District includes $140,000 for a diversity, equity and inclusion position. One board member worried it could be throwing money at a trend and creating “woke policy” that may not help the district.

The Park City School District is considering its budget for next year. It tentatively includes $8.1 million in capital projects, $3.8 million in employee compensation increases and several programming changes.

One new item drew particular interest at the board meeting Tuesday night: $240,000 for a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. The money would fund a new staff position, training and materials.

Superintendent Jill Gildea said the idea was partially in response to events from February, apparently referencing an incident in which a swastika and racial slur were written in a Jewish teacher’s classroom.

Gildea said the new position, budgeted at $140,000, would be part of a team of three people, including a new full time Title IX compliance officer, also budgeted at $140,000, and the chief academic officer, whose duties would expand to include an equity element.

“The idea was, if there were to be any sort of incident, you have somebody trained who can be alongside that administrator and that teacher in that classroom, and work through the restorative process, can help coach the teacher, can help coach the admin, who can really kind of help keep our eyes on, you know, ‘What haven't we seen? What have been our blind spots?’” Gildea said.

Board Member Andrew Caplan asked for more details, like the job description and what the person’s responsibilities would be.

"I think it's more the title that scares me," he said.

He said he was open to changing his mind, but suggested the money could be better spent on other initiatives.

“I worry that we're getting into kind of throwing dollars behind a national trend, which is going to be, which may or may not help, and which is somewhat, you know, abstract," Caplan said. "So I guess I'm happy to learn more about it. But I think my initial blink would be that, you know, I'd much rather take $240,000 and give it to substitutes so they actually come and our teachers can have breaks and plan.”

Caplan questioned spending the money on an additional administrator position that he said would be controversial.

“I mean, in theory, if we believe in equity, we want that to be in every building," he said. "We don't necessarily want that to be someone sitting down the hall from Jill (Gildea) whose job it is to create woke policy that in theory helps children. We want it to be someone who's dealing with issues and coaching educators on how to make sure that all kids feel welcome.”

Caplan also said he was proud of the equity work the district has done with the Latinx community and students with special needs.

Board Member Wendy Crossland, who is on a committee the district empaneled to work on diversity, equity and inclusion issues, appeared to defend the new position. She invited Caplan to meet with committee members to express his concerns and learn more about the proposal.

Crossland and Caplan declined to offer additional comment for this story.

The school board is set to once again discuss the district’s proposed budget next month.