Webinar

Michael Taylor, Pittsfield's director of human resources, outlined initial recommendations from Mayor Linda Tyer's diversity, equity and inclusion study group during a webinar Thursday.

PITTSFIELD — A study group appointed by Mayor Linda Tyer has developed an initial plan for countering employment inequities in the municipal and school system workforces.

Members of the group unveiled their ideas at a webinar offered in Spanish and English Thursday, the first of two public sessions aimed at gathering feedback from the community before submitting final recommendations to Tyer.

After the second session this coming Tuesday, the group will consider the public's comments and make any changes accordingly, then present its final recommendations to Tyer, said city Human Resources Director Michael Taylor.

At the core of their plan is a proposal to create an independent Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, he said. It would be staffed by two chief diversity, equity and inclusion officers — one whose work would focus on the municipality and the other on the Pittsfield Public Schools.

Outside of their compensation, the office would have budget of $50,000 for expenses such as professional development, travel, support staff and special events, and would be separate from other city departments. The study group proposed a salary range of $70,000 to $90,000 for the chief DEI officers.

The only way to uproot systemic inequities is to create new systems and processes, said the study group's Auric Enchill, also owner of Elegant Stitches, and that starts with hiring chief officers to manage and implement the city’s DEI strategy.

“As a city of Pittsfield native and child of immigrants, I am aware of the systemic inequities that exist and continue to plague my community,” he said. “In order to dismantle these inequities, we need to implement a proactive initiative, starting with a diversity, equity and inclusion officer.”

The officers would work in tandem with “DEI Ambassadors” to implement initiatives, he said. One employee in each municipal department would be recruited to serve as an ambassador for a stipend, with responsibilities to include helping new employees acclimate to the workplace culture, offering resources and reporting concerns to human resources.

Tyer appointed Taylor, Enchill, Shirley Edgerton, cultural proficiency coach for Pittsfield Public Schools, Frances Jones-Sneed, historian and NAACP Berkshires branch member, Eleanore Velez, coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College, and community leader Alisa Costa to the work group in October.

Tyer asked them to develop a set of recommendations for employee retention, recruitment, career development, advocacy and more, a process Costa said involved assessing local policies and demographics, gathering public input and learning about DEI practices in other communities.

In the area of recruitment, the group proposed expanding internship opportunities to build a pipeline of employees for the city and schools, said Taylor, while increasing outreach to underrepresented groups, requiring hiring managers complete implicit bias training and making sure interviews with prospective new employees are conducted by a diverse panel.

They also recommended creating a mentorship program for employees, and requiring staff, as well as those serving on appointed and elected city boards, complete bi-annual training on DEI issues, said Edgerton.

The city’s existing Human Rights Commission has limited authority, Taylor told The Eagle. The work group proposed replacing that panel with an Equity and Human Rights Board, which he said would take on a greater role in city government.

To register for the second and final community webinar at 6 p.m. Tuesday, go to: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9sDm1hp4TSS_DY76O7tDOw

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.