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TRUSD and the importance of transparency

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Today we're bringing y'all a report back from an interview that the SJPC editor did with Dwight Harvey, a former Vice Principal (4 years) at Rio Linda Highschool, about the year he spent working as a Coordinator for the Twin Rivers Unified School District's Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI).

This piece is about the need for accountability and transparency with TRUSD, and how they have failed to rectify the wrongs inflicted upon Mr. Harvey.

Background on the DEDI (pulled from TRUSD website):

In the Spring of 2021, TRUSD moved to approve the development of an Equity Department as they sought to continue to build access and inclusivity for all students, families, and staff. The district remains firm in its belief that Equity work is in no way limited to one specific department and that each department and site will continue to implement and grow practices, systems, programs, and approaches that build an equity- focused culture.

When a position at the DEDI came available, Dwight applied, thinking he would do well in that position because of how familiar he is with the community within the TRUSD, and because of the relationships with community relationships he has in both TRUSD and other school districts.

He did not get the position when he first applied, and the District instead hired someone from outside TRUSD. Dwight Harvey is a Black man, and he noted that as the recruitment process went on, the space was progressively more and more white, and less and less comfortable/safe for him as a person of color. Another important thing to acknowledge is that, at the time of this recruitment process, there were only 3 Black women, and no Black men, working within the District office. Given the historic and ongoing issues of racism within TRUSD, this fact is particularly telling.

Here's a quick list of things that SJPC alone (not including any other news outlets/reporting) has covered regarding racism and and mistreatment within TRUSD: blatant racism from Board Trustees; atrocities from within the TRUSD Police Department; a lack of transparency regarding TRUSD PD budgets & practices; egregious mistreatment of students and educators; and the unjust removal of a beloved Principal

A week after he was not hired for the job he received a call from the District offering him a position within DEDI created especially for him. They had gotten push back from Board & community members after he was not given the job. They told Dwight that he had discussed things with them during his interviews that they had not considered - including issues of equity in TRUSD outside of the classroom. He was told they wanted to hire him to help problem solve within the community, and to serve as the face of the DEDI. Dwight was also directed to call the Department out if they were not working in alignment with their vision & mission (see below).

After 3-4 months with DEDI's newly hired director, Dwight felt like he was, instead, a highly paid executive assistant.

Dwight introduced himself to this new Director, Katrina Callaway, saying he had also applied for her position, but was there to support her. Katrina quickly implemented policies that hugely limited Dwight's ability to effectively do his job, including taking away his schedule flexibility, demanding several hours a week of check-in time, and generally micromanaging in such an invasive way as to impede Dwight's ability to complete his work. Dwight spoke with her and her boss about these issues and was not able to have any meaningful conversations on the subject. He also spoke with HR. There were no corrective measures taken, no accountability, and the situation continued to get progressively worse.

Closer to the end of the year the problems with Katrina were glaringly obvious. Mr. Harvey was given a bad written review (had never received a bad review during his time with TRUSD), and was receiving no clear and/or consistent expectations from her.

Eventually Dwight felt he had to resign.

This Department wasn’t doing anything that they said they were going to do. Dwight feels that it bothered Callaway that he had relationships out in the community that she wasn’t part of - as evidenced by her demand to be included in things like site visits.

Dwight feels that she was threatened by who he was, and while he can't say for sure it was due to racism, she definitely performed discriminatory actions. Dwight felt pressured to leave due to her behavior. Katrina also had been doing things like eavesdropping on his conversations & confronting him about them later, as well as making unfounded accusations about him. Dwight's question is: why did you even bring me here?

After Dwight filed a complaint against Callaway an investigation was started (at the time of this interview it was still incomplete). She wasn’t placed on administrative leave at all until 5-6 months after the complaint

Dwight believes that once he started going to TRUSD School Board meetings the District finally took action to place her on leave. At the time of this interview, a lawyer (contracted by the District) was working with the District to find a resolution to these issues. Dwight wants those findings, and wants resolution to them. There was no transparency in regard to the process of contracting a firm, and it’s expected that the community will have to take the findings on faith.

Dwight just wants an acknowledgment and to find a resolution.

For Mr. Harvey, the resolution would be: what can I bring to the table now to help schools within TRUSD move forward in terms of equity, diversity, and inclusion? He is disappointed that he was not given a proper opportunity to do the job he was hired for.

After Dwight decided to resign, a Black woman was hired to the Department, and she also filed complaints against the same Director.

Dwight sent his complaint out in May of 2022, and at the time of this interview (December 2022) was just beginning to receive responses. He began going to TRUSD School Board meetings in October of 2022 to ask what a resolution would look like, and to demand that the District & Department fix the mistakes they made. He emphasized that he doesn't want to get people fired, but that there does need to be accountability regarding staff behavior.

What does Dwight want people to know?

He really wants folx to know about this specific incident, what TRUSD did (or didn't do) about this, and he wants people to be angry about their practices! He wants people to demand transparency and accountability. He wants us to ensure that community members don’t get swept away because they are challenging existing TRUSD power structures. Dwight was emotionally, personally, and financially damaged from this ordeal (both from not being hired for the original position and for being pushed to leave). Financially it was not just his current income, but his retirement as well that was put in peril.

Dwight loves the community and wants it to be better, he wants people to walk away from his story with awareness. He wants TRUSD to have open forums and townhalls for the community, and he wants the community's needs and expectations need to be heard and discussed the Board. He wants to know why the community isn't involved in staffing decisions within the District, and how we can ensure that the staff reflects the population they serve.

This story is another example of the deep-rooted issues of systemic racism within TRUSD, and yet another example of its lack of transparency and accountability. Our community needs people like Dwight, who are willing to work through these issues because they care so much about the population being served, and they need our support. One good thing to take away from this is that there were a couple of examples of advocacy from the community and at School Board meetings that resulted in change. There is real evidence that using our voices for good can have a positive impact <3

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