Q&A with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions Officer Terri Roberts-Leonard


Raghav Sriram

Why do you believe Carmel Clay Schools added this position for the 2020-2021 School Year?

With the murder of George Floyd last year, issues of racism specifically, but Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in general, were thrust into the forefront. A lot of people were starting to take critical looks at their organizations and figure out which ways they can improve. Because DEI work is where everybody is working and everybody should be engaged in it together, I think sometimes people do not end up putting someone in a position to help steer the ship, but I think with something like this where it’s everybody’s job it often ends up being nobody’s job because accountability is not really there. I think putting somebody in the position to help streamline things, helps our school cooperation to be all in one accord, and also helps for accountability and things like that.

As a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions) Officer, what are your responsibilities?

What they really want me to focus on is developing a plan for the school corporation in terms of what we need to do in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions. That means at every level. So the needs at elementary will be different from middle school and will be different from High School. But what I would like to see is something that will take a Kindergarten student and have them learning at the Kindergarten level all the way up to the 12th grade. So what I don’t want to do is just have (DEI) as a focus for Elementary, or just something we do in middle school or wait until High School because students know a lot by the time they reach 9th grade so we do not want this to be something we throw at them at the last minute. So I really want to do something that will be all-encompassing of their experience at Carmel Clay Schools. Additionally, I want to help parents because a lot of times if parents are not familiar with the issues that come along with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, sometimes it can be scary. You may be talking about something I’m not very familiar with, and I’m the parent of the child so I must be able to engage in conversation with them, so it is important to be a support system for the parents as well and to equip them with any information with what they need as well.

Why do you find DEI in Education Important?

I think education should prepare people for life, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is part of life. So I think we do our students an injustice if we do not prepare them for work in a global society because everybody is not going to be their bubble that students have grown up in. So I think it’s up to us to give them a seamless web of education, and a full, well-rounded education, and that includes concentrating on issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Why is your job important to Carmel High School specifically?

I think in high school you are closest to being in the quote-on-quote real world. So you’re getting ready to go into the workforce, to college, the military, trade school, whatever your path may take you to. But in all those things you need to be prepared to be part of a global society and to work in a global society. And just like I would tell my college students, ‘I don’t want you to come into your freshman year and leave with the same level of knowledge when you are a senior.” You should be able to grow and be able to evolve. So the call of diversity education is to not indoctrinate people with specific beliefs or values but to get them to ask questions and understand the inequities that are in the world. The workforce today requires that you have a certain level of understanding of issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion so we are not adequately preparing our students if we do not prepare them for this.