West Hartford names first executive director of equity advancement

·3 min read

Roszena Haskins has been named the first executive director of equity advancement for the town of West Hartford and its public schools.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Andrew Morrow and Town Manager Rick Ledwith announced that Haskins, who has served the public school district as the director of equity advancement for the last six years, would be expanding her role into the municipal sphere.

The position is a new addition to the town roster that was approved by the Town Council in 2021 to support its commitment to cultivating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I’m really excited that I have this opportunity to bridge similar equity work on the district side with the progress on the town side,” Haskins said. “This is the work that’s been in my DNA. When the people of West Hartford are thriving, the community has its best chance to succeed. And to me, it is important [that] anyone who experiences West Hartford as a resident, a business owner, a town employee or as part of our learning community, feels an authentic sense of belonging and has equitable access to programs, services, resources and opportunities that they need, want and deserve.”

Haskins is credited with establishing collaborative partnerships, such as West Hartford Public Schools’ Equity and Diversity Council and “One Community for Equity,” which connects parent groups and community organizations.

In 2021, Haskins received the George Coleman Excellence In Equity Award after leading the study that aided the creation of the “transformational” Board of Education “Educational Equity Policy 1800.”

Before serving as the Director of Equity Advancement for West Hartford Public Schools, Haskins was the principal of Sedgwick Middle School and the recipient of the Bridge Family Center “Build No Fences Award” during her tenure as assistant principal of Conard High School.

“Dr. Haskins has been the leader of WHPS’ equity and diversity efforts over the last several years, and I know she will be equally instrumental in extending this work to the Town in this newly formed combined role,” Morrow said in a press release announcing Haskins’ appointment.

Mayor Shari Cantor said while other municipalities have hired temporary diversity advisors or consultants, West Hartford made it a priority to commit to equity, diversity and inclusion work by ingraining Haskins’ new position as executive director of equity advancement into the framework of the town.

“We really wanted to commit the town to this long term. This is not something that you do in a year, and then you move on. This is something that has to be part of the town looking inside and looking outside,” Cantor said. “We got the best, and I’m just so excited to work with [Haskins].”

Haskins said that in this new role she wants to promote recruitment and retention in diverse talent pools so that residents see themselves reflected in the makeup of municipal and educational offices. Additionally, Haskins said she wants to examine equity in housing, transportation and other town services.

“I’m keenly aware that equity work is hard and it takes time, but it is crucial to the health of our town,” Haskins said. “I want to understand and be able to define our values in order to build a common vision for equity and also ask the right questions when those values are not reflected within the organization.”

Haskins said that she is pleased that West Hartford is committed to building an equity arm of Ledwith’s town manager office and has invested in the recruitment and hiring of a full-time equity coordinator who will report to Haskins.

In a press release, Ledwith said that after working beside Haskins for 15 years, he is thrilled to have her lead the town’s and its schools’ equity work.

“Roszena [Haskins] has the experience and passion to help us identify best practices and to remove barriers so that we can create a more inclusive and welcoming town,” Ledwith said.

Alison Cross can be reached at across@courant.com