Select Board Members Wrestle with How to Assemble Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

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Select Board members struggled on Aug. 11 with how to begin assembling the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Members Tom Clay and Anita Tonakarn-Nguyen are spearheading the project, accelerated after anti-Semitic images were spray-painted last month on road signs and private residences on Lakeside Terrace, Russell’s Way and Pine Ridge Road, among others.

But not everyone could see the path clearly.

“I do have some concerns,” said Select Board Member Mark Kost. “Let me talk about the composition of the committee. I have questions, like what are we looking for? What qualifies someone to be on this committee?”

Clay and Tonakarn- Nguyen have spoken with leaders from other towns to see how they created a committee and how it’s working out. Among those towns are Lexington, Westborough, North Andover, Somerville and Worcester.

Charged with a similar mission to Westford’s DEI Committee, Lexington’s is called the Vision Committee. “The 2020 Vision Committee seeks members who have an interest in and a commitment to the future of Lexington,” according to a Town Hall document, and a background in one or more of the following areas: familiarity with the community, skills beneficial to performing the work of the committee and fresh perspectives, and a passion for the positive future of Lexington.”

Clay pointed to Lexington’s criteria for committee members and suggested the board agree on the questions they would ask of each applicant.

“Maybe one idea…is that list of guiding criteria,” he said.

Kost was not satisfied.

“…What are the criteria that we’re going to be doing an assessment on and I certainly hope that whoever is doing the assessment has some background in how to do this. And if it’s a professional that we need to hire I think we need to understand where the funds are coming from to do it.”

Board members will take up the matter again on Aug. 25.