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Ziegler Links Diversity to Business Success at Chamber Breakfast

 

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler spoke about “Diversity as a Competitive Advantage” during the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Policy Makers Series on September 24 at the LCPS Administrative Offices in Ashburn.

Ziegler told a group of local business leaders that equity work the school division is undertaking is not an outlier in a rapidly changing community and world.  

“What we in education call equity and equity training, which I define as the practice of acknowledging and respecting culture and of accepting diverse identity, is what you in business call diversity and diversity training. Our work in equity is not an academic exercise, but a reflection of reality and necessary for preparing students to be productive citizens in your workforce and our changing community. We know that many of you agree with us. Your values and public positions on the importance of the issue of diversity and inclusion are publicly and broadly stated. Words in each of these statements strike me as powerful and transformative, and they’re not dissimilar to our equity statement…

“You, like us, value diversity. We’re helping educate students to live and work in a world where businesses value empathy, racial consciousness and cultural awareness.”

Ziegler said LCPS’ equity work is often misrepresented in the media. “Much of the recent news coverage would have you believe that LCPS is a dumpster fire… Our detractors would have you believe that we are teaching and indoctrinating students in Critical Race Theory in our schools.” (Critical Race Theory is not part of the LCPS student curriculum.) Teacher equity training also has been misrepresented, Ziegler added, noting LCPS is “teaching teachers to understand and deal with race issues in the classroom that diminish the learning climate and student achievement…

“We all know that Loudoun County Public Schools has been in the press a lot. Negative coverage is not good for Loudoun County Public Schools. It’s not good for Loudoun County and it’s certainly not good for your businesses. We know that families and businesses move to Loudoun County – in large part – because of the great school system that is here.”

Ziegler said he wants the business community to join LCPS as an equity partner. “To publicly challenge misinformation when you hear it. To talk about the positive things that are happening in schools all across the county and to acknowledge that the ability to function as part of a diverse workforce is an important and desirable soft skill.”   

The superintendent also touched on LCPS plans for expanded learning opportunities during the next four years. “We’re looking to expand equity and opportunity across the county. We’re going to do that at the high school level by offering career and interest academies, things like the International Baccalaureate program, a fine arts academy, a justice academy.”

At the middle school level there also are plans to offer a fine arts academy with computer science and language immersion programs projected at the elementary level.

Career and technical education opportunities being offered by LCPS was another area Ziegler highlighted. “We realize not all students are going into computer science.” The superintendent said LCPS is building internship programs and offering classes that result in industry-relevant and supported credentials. He highlighted several career pathways offered through the Monroe Advanced Technical Academy (MATA), including administration of justice, biotechnology, building construction and radiology technology. “These are all important skills that meet the needs of the businesses of Loudoun County: qualified, certified applicants.”

The title of Friday’s presentation was “The State of Workforce Recovery.”

Presenting a state-level overview on this subject was Virginia Secretary of Labor Dr. Megan Healy. She echoed Ziegler’s call for training a diverse workforce. “Companies used to say, ‘I want a talented workforce.’ Now they say, ‘I want a diverse workforce.’”

Healy said her department is trying to move people who traditionally have trouble securing employment “off the sidelines” and into the workforce. She said increasing the number of internships available to students is a key to this effort. “We have students – especially our low-income students – who see opportunities. They don’t know how to get a job; they don’t have social capital. It’s important that these students get paid.”

Healy said she’s promoting internships beyond traditional fields like construction. Information technology is an example of a field for which she’d like to see more internships.

During the pandemic, Healy said her department has overseen the distribution of $14 billion to workers in need. “That means we’ve paid a lot of rent, kept the lights on and put food on the table.”


Attending the Policy Makers breakfast were state Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko, 33rd District; Del. David A. Reid, 32nd District; Del. Suhas Subramanyam, 87th District; Ashburn District Supervisor Mike Turner; and Loudoun County Circuit Court Clerk Gary Clemens.

 

 

 

 

Published September 30, 2021