Laying the Groundwork to Operationalize Equity with OSBA

Feature image that says: "Laying the Groundwork to Operationalize Equity. A Cinversation with the Oregon School Board Association's Equity Team." with headshots of Spencer Lewis and Jean Chiappisi

“We want to see every student be successful in whatever way success looks for them. And I believe that what we do can support that,” Spencer Lewis, director of Policy Services at the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA), shared with us.  

Spencer is on OSBA’s Equity Team alongside 10 other colleagues from across the organization. Since April of 2023, the team has been working on developing a plan to operationalize OSBA’s equity commitment with support from TGP Senior Advisor Lalitha Vaidayanthan and Senior Analyst Emily Daman. 

“The Equity Team is an intentional space to test things out  – like, what would an equity lens for OSBA look like?, and how should OSBA implement its equity commitment? – and then radiate that out to the rest of the organization” Lalitha shared. 

We sat down with Spencer, Equity Team colleague Jean Chiappisi and Lalitha to reflect on their work and lessons learned to date. Here’s what they said:


1. Living into equity starts from within

OSBA’s internal equity work includes priorities like: 

  • Consciousness-raising training across the entire staff with help from the Center for Equity and Inclusion
  • Cultivating a culture of inclusion, belonging and safety
  • Hiring and retention – especially of staff of color
  • Incorporating DEI into annual performance evaluations

Together the Equity Team is defining specific goals within each priority, developing action steps for implementation and coming together to share lessons learned along the way. 


2. Operationalizing requires a “test and learn” mindset

As part of their work, The Equity Team has developed an equity lens – a list of questions and considerations to use when making decisions across the organization. “It gets you to pause and think about how something may unintentionally impact people negatively or positively, what barriers might exist, and how we might remedy it,” Spencer shared. 


“Every time I work through any equity process I learn more,” Jean added. “So I'm looking forward to working through this process – hopefully together with school boards – because I think we'll learn even more as we go, and it'll be evolving all the time.”


3. Sometimes speeding up requires slowing down 

Both Spencer and Jean reflected on the challenges of moving forward as a group of individuals with unique experiences and resisting the urge to jump to external action before the organization has had a chance to work on nurturing internal capacity and a culture that centers equity. 

Lalitha offered a helpful metaphor:

While OSBA’s Equity Team began with volunteers like Spencer and Jean, as they continue to build the foundation for this long-term organizational commitment, they’re exploring a rotational service model where staff across the organization can cycle in, building on the team’s collective work.


“I don’t think this work has an end,” Jean shared. “And we’re just now planting the seeds that will grow over time.”


You can learn more about OSBA here.

Lalitha Vaidayanthan is a Senior Advisor at TGP and Emily Daman is a Senior Analyst. You can learn more about our team here.  


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