AUBURN — The School Committee modified its decision on the diversity, equity and inclusion proposal Wednesday, after several members asked for some clarification and rethink its decision at its last meeting on Dec. 18.

Instead of supporting all four phases, the committee voted during a three-plus hour meeting to merely support phases 1 and 2 of the project by a 7-0-1 vote, Vice Chairman David Simpson abstaining.

Last month, the committee heard a presentation from Laura Liqouri of Mindbridge and Virginia Dearani, an independent educational consultant, on a four-phase project to study diversity and equity and inclusion in the school system.

The board adopted all four phases and agreed to create a subcommittee to study potential problems with diversity and equity and inclusion.

Committee Chairmwoman Karen Mathieu said phase 1 would be simple fact-finding. The group would collect data and complete field research. Phase 2 would start to compile the data and consider whatever models  to develop.

Both phases would be paid with Title IV funds in the budget.

Following last month’s vote, some committee members said they were somewhat confused by what they voted on. Ward 2 member Pamela Hart said she thought she was voting on just the the subcommittee and not the entire project.

Some members weren’t sure if this was even needed, wondering is this was a proposal looking for a potential problem instead of going after a known problem.

“Is this needed?” asked Brian Carrier, the mayor’s representative on the committee. “By what degree is it needed? What is the issue?”

“The school spends a ton of money on consultants when we have experts in our schools,” Simpson said.

But Mathieu and Superintendent Katy Grondin insisted that the first two phases would collect the data to see where the Auburn school system was.

Both stressed that the committee was not committed to phases 3 and 4, which begin the development of comprehensive plans, with help of teachers, students, staff and other stakeholders.

Most members agreed with Ward 1 member Rose Walker, who supported completing the first two phases to learn what and if there are issues with diversity in Auburn schools. She wanted to hold off on supporting the final two phases until the results were in.

Mathieu steered the committee to modify last month’s vote from four phases to two.

Earlier, the committee heard a presentation from Charlie Agnew of Competitive Energy Services on the School Department’s possible participation in a renewable energy consortium on solar energy. Agnew said savings, via energy credits, could amount to more than $50,000 annually. Other potential school districts involved include Falmouth, Windham and Scarborough, as well as Bowdoin and Colby colleges, Husson University, the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine system.


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