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NHCS chooses new Chief Equity Officer, continues equity contract with Sophic Solutions

New Hanover County Schools district administration office on Carolina Beach Road.

The new top-level administration role — Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — was recommended by Sophic Solutions, an education consultant that the district has kept on for additional DEI training after providing an initial 'equity audit.'

New Hanover County Schools has chosen Dr. LaChawn Smith to fill the new role of Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The position was created in part on the recommendation of Sophic Solutions, an educational consulting firm that conducted an equity audit of the district earlier this year. Among other DEI recommendations, the audit suggested the district hire a 'Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer.'

Related: NHCS equity audit complete, recommendations include hiring a 'Chief Inclusion & Community Engagement Officer'

The new DEI chief role's job, according to NHCS, is "to provide strategic direction of the Superintendent’s and School Board’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan and its multiple components. Responsible for setting the strategic direction, recommending, developing, implementing and managing all aspects of this strategy. Works closely with the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources to provide insight, resources, tools and actions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion goals within the context of HR strategic goals." (Full job description below).

The new top-level administrative position answers directly to the Superintendent; the job includes a wide range of duties, including planning, implementing, and internally communicating a host of DEI programs.

Smith will start in the new position on January 6, 2022. The salary for the position ranges from $60,000 to $100,000 — based on the district's local salary guidelines. NHCS has not yet clarified what Smith’s exact salary will be.

She has been with the district for roughly a decade, previously serving in several roles including as assistant and then deputy superintendent. NHCS said it soon begin the search process for a new deputy superintendent.

Sophic Solutions contract.JPG
From Sophic Solutions 2021-2022 contract.

The district has also renewed Sophic Solutions’ contract through the end of the fiscal year. The $26,000 contract covers a variety of equity training services. The cost is well below the $300,000 threshold for spending without board approval and can be authorized by the administration. (Sophic's contract is below).

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.