2018-07-01 / Shorts

Inclusion Solutions

Meet SCASD’s first director of diversity and inclusivity before she begins next month.
Chris Rosenblum | Photo by Nabil K. Mark

It’s only fitting that Seria Chatters, as State College Area School District’s first director of diversity and inclusivity, plans to include a diverse group of people during her orientation.

When she starts in August, Chatters will conduct a “listening tour,” talking with administrators, school principals, teachers, students, parents and community members to learn about school climates.

“One of my first goals is to make myself more aware of the district’s current practices,” she says. “I’d like to hear what’s been going on in the past, what’s going on presently, and then where does everyone believe we need to be going in the future.”

Armed with that knowledge, she’ll begin guiding the district toward meeting the goals of a school climate/inclusive excellence policy passed last year. The district sees her being “a strategic partner and coach for students, parents and employees” who will work “to create a culture that embraces diversity at all levels, recognizes and addresses implicit bias, and highlights the importance of maintaining a culturally responsive environment.”

Moreover, she’ll be responsible for developing programs and processes that promote diversity, inclusion and respect. It’s a lot to shoulder, but Chatters comes to the job amply prepared.

A licensed professional counselor and mental health counselor, she most recently has been a Penn State assistant professor in counselor education and the coordinator of the university’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Schools and Communities Program. Prior to coming to Penn State, she earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and a master’s degree in counselor education from South Florida University.

She’s also no stranger to public education, having been a secondary school counselor in Florida and a diversity training consultant for SCASD.

“Having Seria as a full-time colleague will be valuable for all of us, not only for our own development, but also as we encounter challenges related to diversity and inclusivity,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell says.

Chatters joins a district that’s becoming more diverse, but diversity extends beyond ethnicity. She sees her position facilitating the district’s ongoing efforts to be inclusive for all students — and reflective of the district’s commitment to being at the forefront of these issues.

“SCASD is already making steps to where they’re putting themselves ahead of other districts,” she says. “So it’s not me coming in to change the course. It’s me coming in to say, ‘What are you doing already that we can improve?’”

Ahead lie many plans: teaching about implicit bias, supporting restorative justice practices, promoting multicultural competency, ensuring that academic and extracurricular opportunities are available to all students. Whatever the case, she says, fidelity across the district will be important “so that we all are using the same language” and can engage in honest dialogues.

“We can start becoming open with one another, to be able to talk about how we may see our biases come into play where we weren’t recognizing it before,” she says. “Because one of the key pieces in moving forward in any organization is facing your problems and not scooping them under the rug.”

She’s candid herself about her mixed emotions of beginning a new chapter in her life. A rollercoaster fan, she compares her anticipation to starting a ride.

“You’re scared but you’re excited, and that’s where I’m at right now,” she says. “I’m nervous, but I know I’m going to have a lot of fun because I really feel this is what my life has been moving to. This is the culmination of my life’s work in this role. It feels like it was made for me, so I’m super excited.” •SCM

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