The Granite School District had an opportunity to make an enormous stride towards diversity and equity in leadership when Superintendent Martin Bates announced his retirement earlier this year. Instead, during a time filled with cries for racial justice and equity in schools, they selected yet another white male to be the leader of one of the largest, most diverse school districts in the state.
According to the most recently available demographic data provided on the district website, Granite School District has a nonwhite student population of approximately 49.8%. In contrast, the superintendency is 100% white, as is the Granite School Board. Similar disparities can be seen throughout the district, especially in positions of leadership. While Richard Nye certainly has impressive educational and professional backgrounds, there is no denying the fact that representation matters, especially in positions of leadership and authority. The decision not to hire a person of color speaks volumes about the district’s priorities.
In June 2020, Superintendent Bates issued a statement following the murder of George Floyd which read, “We have a unique opportunity in the history of our nation to be able to listen and offer empathy and understanding to those who unnecessarily suffer. We will provide needed strength and assistance through the power of education and we are committed to be bold and creative in this effort.”
Hiring another white male to fill the shoes of an outgoing white male is not a “bold” nor “creative” way to, as Bates said, “offer empathy to those who unnecessarily suffer.” Rather, it is a reminder to everyone that actions speak more loudly than carefully crafted statements and empty promises.
At the beginning of his letter to the Granite School District community back in June, Bates referenced a powerful warning from Ellie Wiesel about remaining silent. Now, nearly a year later, when provided with an opportunity to choose progress, the Board of Education reverted to its old ways, an action so loud that even the district’s own carefully crafted words were silenced.
Carter Woolf, Salt Lake City