| Program: || Initiative on Race at the U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC |
| Contact(s): || Dr. Theda Zawaiza, Special Assistant for Equity: (202) 401-1039 |
| Purpose: || To provide a forum to discuss race-related issues in the workplace and ultimately, to improve customer service by fostering an equitable, positive and productive work environment as well as employee growth and career development |
The Initiative on Race at the U.S. Department of Education addresses difficult workplace issues and seeks to promote productivity, a sense of fairness and effective delivery of educational services. One objective of the Initiative is to integrate equity into the Department's strategic plan and daily operations in a manner that incorporates and builds on diversity as a fundamental value of a high performance organization. In response to the President's call for action, Secretary Riley asked the Department of Education to serve as a One-America model for federal agencies and the education community. The Initiative on Race offers opportunities for all staff, and outside partners and customers, to get involved in a process to improve race relations. This process consists of three steps: 1) listening; 2) planning; and 3) action.
The listening process provides forums for employees to discuss their concerns, issues and solutions openly and without fear of reprisal. Needed data was gathered from these sessions to design strategies which will address racial concerns. The planning process began with facilitated dialogue forums designed to clearly identify possible solutions and recommendations that would address the concerns raised in the preceding listening sessions. These sessions are facilitated and interactive, involving an exchange between senior management and staff. Reports summarizing dialogue sessions, letters written by employees, suggestion box entries and information generated by previous efforts are reviewed and evaluated to create action items for Department-wide implementation. The Department's Labor-Management Partnership Council and the Equal Employment Opportunities Office are both involved in the action process to ensure that any modification to the terms and conditions of employment are appropriately considered.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
This Initiative has spawned a host of activities and new policies related to racial reconciliation (e.g., film series, book clubs), employee relations, training, and professional development. Communication throughout the entire agency is facilitated through an informational Intranet website. A 25-member working group and a steering committee, comprised of five Assistant Secretaries, has also been established to ensure that the Initiative results in long term, positive systemic and cultural changes throughout the agency and educational community. Many staff participants have expressed enthusiasm and appreciation in response to the Initiative's efforts to fully embrace diversity within the agency.