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DRIVE task force on teacher diversity looks for more time, and to use its time with intention

How will the DRIVE Task Force implement its recommendations and build momentum for its mission of diversifying North Carolina’s teacher workforce? That’s what it met to discuss on Tuesday, when it announced the creation of two subcommittees to begin the next phase of its work.

Chair Anthony Graham also said the task force will ask that Gov. Roy Cooper, who created it in December 2019 with Executive Order 113, extend its life by two years beyond its expiration date of Dec. 31. 

“We’ve done great work over the past year,” said Graham, provost at Winston-Salem State University. “But it is now time to plant the seeds necessary to ensure that there is continuous movement towards developing an inclusive and representative vision for education.”

The task force will continue to meet bimonthly as a whole, but it will also split into two subcommittees to focus on (1) action planning to implement its recommendations and (2) community-building strategies for bringing more stakeholders to the table and cultivating more advocates for the recommendations.

The recommendations, issued in June 2020, were:

Each subcommittee met for the first time via breakout sessions on Tuesday.

The action planning committee discussed how to advocate for implementation of the task force’s 10 recommendations, and whether the group should create some architecture around the recommendations that would guide adoption and implementation.

This subcommittee, which aims to draft a formal action plan by February, also discussed how to navigate what subcommittee member Debra Stewart of Raleigh called a “torn political environment” into which it is “marching right into the center.”

‘Not a lot of time’

Reporting on the subcommittee’s breakout discussion, Stewart told the whole group there was still a sense of hope — but also a sense of urgency.

“We left feeling that there’s a huge amount of work to be done and not a lot of time to do it,” said Stewart, who serves on several international education boards and is an at-large member of the task force.

The community building subcommittee began imagining what partnerships and outreach efforts would look like, but focused on beginning to discuss DRIVE Summit 2.0. The group hopes to hold the summit in April, and will meet every two weeks to try to accomplish that goal.

“The first DRIVE Summit in 2019 was developed in what I feel like was a completely different world than where we live today,” said Leslie Locklear, the First Americans’ Teacher Education project coordinator for UNC Pembroke’s School of Education and co-chair of the community building subcommittee.

With three months remaining in the task force’s term unless it is extended, Graham reminded its members that much remains to be done.

Last school year, there were 172,564 full-time personnel employed by public schools, 70% of whom were white. The year prior, in 2019-20, there were 174,119 full-time personnel, also 70% of whom were white. White students made up 45% and 46% of public schools those two school terms, respectively.

“Implementing [our] recommendations will require an organized effort that includes drawing on the expertise of our task force members and leveraging connections within our personal and professional networks to advance this work,” Graham said. “It has been a long journey for us, but I believe we can all agree that our work is not done until we see that our educator workforce reflects the diversity of the student population in North Carolina’s public schools.”

Editor’s note: A previous edition of this post said Debra Stewart acts as a chair of the action planning subcommittee. She is a member of the subcommittee, but she does not serve as a chair.

Rupen Fofaria

Rupen Fofaria was the equity and learning differences reporter for EducationNC from 2018 through October 2023.