Haverhill School Committee Adopts Diversity Policy, Reflecting Changing Populations

Ward 6 Haverhill School Committee member Yonnie Collins. (Courtesy photograph.)

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Haverhill School Committee members formally passed a diversity policy in late May, reflecting the increased diversity of the student population and the Committee itself.

Member Yonnie Collins said, “Research shows that, when students feel engaged in their community at large, and they feel like they’re part of the whole, and not just a floating piece of a puzzle, that they actually thrive in the classroom settings, there’s less violence, there’s more engagement and more productivity.”

With roughly half the student body of “minoritized communities,” she said the School Committee needs to work to make everyone feel welcome. In the past six years, state data shows the proportion of English-language learners in the district grew from 9.5% to 13%.

Haverhill adopted a policy written by the state association of school committees in 2019. Vice Chair Paul A. Magliocchetti said, “As we proceed and we dig deeper into DEI, we’ll make amendments to the policy.”

Haverhill School Committee member Erica Diaz. (Courtesy photograph.)

The city’s adoption on May 23 comes five years later because, he explained, previous Committee “leadership” was not as dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion—or DEI. He said new members like Collins, who is the first Black person on the body, and Erica Diaz can “educate the rest of us.”

“We are formalizing this policy, but we’ve been living it over the past three or four years,” Magliocchetti said, pointing to a DEI position in the district’s human resources department—though he added it has been difficult to fill. Despite Superintendent Margaret Marotta’s dedication to the task, he said finding diverse staff to fill the schools has also been difficult. The schools have brought on more staff to support the increasing number of multilingual learners, as WHAV previously reported.

Key to the Committee’s DEI approach is working with local groups like Violence, Intervention and Prevention, which Collins belonged to while a student at Haverhill High School. At Collins’ invitation, the school’s Black Indigenous and Other People of Color—or BIPOC—Union spoke before the body during a Feb. 8 meeting. Student leaders said the club hosts cultural events and group discussions.

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