Kevin Gilbert, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Posted: October 11th, 2017
“My philosophy is simple: for students to be effective, they must be in a nurturing environment with high expectations that values their individuality,” said Kevin Gilbert, the new HCPSS director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “We must be a district that builds relationships with communities and educators, and helps meet the physical, social and academic needs of our students. This is what I believe is the future of education.”
Gilbert is at the center of supporting Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano’s equity-focused vision by serving on the superintendent’s cabinet, and overseeing the implementation and coordination of systemwide initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion. As HCPSS is reviewing how these concepts should be reflected in schools and classroom practices, Gilbert wants to ensure that all educators have the commitment and resources to tackle biases, meet the needs of the whole student, and uplift student and family voices.
“Kevin Gilbert understands that the heart of equity work is relationships, and he models that with the way he easily interacts with everyone in a way that builds trust,” said John J. Krownapple, coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “He understands that the journey to excellence with equity involves not only mitigating bias but also cultivating community and trust across dimensions of difference.”
Gilbert is running full force ahead with several major initiatives. For example, he is working to expand the use of restorative practices from 28 to all HCPSS schools. When rooted in the restorative justice philosophy, restorative practices support students’ social and emotional development by creating safe spaces for difficult conversations, deep emotions and healing. Restorative practices build healthy relationships within the school community by shifting the paradigm away from punitive disciplinary practices. In the long run, eliminating disparities in discipline practices helps eradicate the school-to-prison pipeline, a cause of particular interest to Gilbert.
Other project highlights include implementing recommendations from the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and putting in place data-driven solutions to narrow the achievement gap. Gilbert has already seen progress with Student Voice opportunities taking place this fall through school dialogue events; with more site-based Cultural Proficiency professional learning opportunities and a Cultural Proficiency liaison in every building; with the Curriculum and Instruction team’s focus on adding inclusivity in the curriculum; and with Human Resources’ increased efforts to encourage diversity in its recruitment and retention practices.
Gilbert brings more than 20 years of educational experience to his position. He has always enjoyed working with young people and has embraced opportunities to impact the education environment from a policy and practice perspective. He discovered his passion for diversity and inclusion work, especially on topics like restorative justice and the school-to-prison pipeline, while serving as a national member on the National Education Association Executive Committee. Gilbert’s previous roles included classroom teacher, coach, assistant principal, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, and teacher leadership and special projects coordinator, all in Mississippi.
Gilbert explained that he came to Howard County because, “This role is the culmination of doing my most meaningful work, around restorative justice and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. I truly believe this is the right work to be doing, to build from the ground up, to be in a county as diverse as ours, and to be in a school district that lifts up this kind of work.”