Henrico, Va., March 26, 2018 – Monica Manns will be the first director of Henrico Schools’ new Office of Equity and Diversity. Manns was introduced Thursday evening at the monthly meeting of the Henrico School Board. The new position is part of the school division’s core leadership team and reports directly to the superintendent.

Manns has extensive experience in education in Henrico County and in other diverse settings, serving as a principal, teacher, counselor, consultant and administrator.

From 2009-13, she worked for the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, serving first as principal of the alternative John G. Wood School, then as the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls’ director of education and vice president of educational services.

Manns is familiar with Henrico County Public Schools. From 2004-07 she was department chair for special education at the Academy at Virginia Randolph. From 2013-16 – first as a consultant and then a prevention specialist – she helped the school division lay the foundation for remaking student disciplinary policy and support systems. During her time at Henrico Schools, she also helped start a mindfulness program for schools in Henrico, and helped launch a voluntary reading group for African-American male students at Fairfield Middle School. She left Henrico Schools in 2016 and is eager to return.

“I’m really excited,” Manns said. “I want to spend time learning, listening, and helping people have collaborative, solution-oriented conversations around issues of equity and diversity. If we do that, we can all work together and move things forward.”

After beginning her career in 1996 as a vocational counselor helping people transition from incarceration to the workforce, she was drawn to education’s preventative power. She worked as a special education teacher in Fairfax Schools and at an alternative school run by Lutheran Family Services of Virginia; as a vocational coordinator for high-risk students; and as statewide training coordinator for United Methodist Family Services. She has also worked as a coordinator of individualized education plans for students with various special needs, including gifted education.

Manns has served on the board of the Henrico Education Foundation since 2016, where she has focused on issues of equity and preventive discipline. She serves on the boards of the adoption advocacy group Children’s Home Society; of SisterFund, which awards grants to local groups supporting African-American girls and women; and of the Stone Foundation, which promotes expanded health care. In 2012, she was part of Style Weekly’s “Top 40 under 40” feature, the publication’s annual list of people under 40 who are leading change and making a mark in the Richmond area.

Manns grew up in Roanoke and in Silver Spring, Md. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Berea College in Kentucky. She has a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Kentucky; a master’s in education from Virginia Tech; and a certificate in educational administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is working on a doctorate in special education administration at the College of William and Mary.

“I think my background and experiences have helped me to be aware of diversity on a wide scale,” Manns said. “Not just ethnic and racial diversity, but economic as well. I’ve worked on poverty issues in cities and in Appalachia. My stepmother was an immigrant from El Salvador, my stepfather is Italian-American, my father is African-American and my mom is Native American. My kids are adopted from Ethiopia.”

Manns will oversee Henrico Schools’ efforts at increasing equity and diversity across the school division. One of her first efforts will be guiding the creation of the HCPS Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee. The new group will be comprised of students, parents, staff and community members. The group had previously been referred to as a task force. Manns will also oversee community listening sessions this spring to get public input on issues of diversity and equity. More information about the advisory committee and the listening sessions will be announced as it becomes available.

“Henrico County is a beautifully diverse place, and our school division is an incredible reflection of that diversity,” said Patrick C. Kinlaw, Henrico Schools superintendent. “Monica will help take our equity and diversity efforts to a new, higher level. This being a cabinet-level position means that all of our efforts as a leadership team will be viewed through that lens of equity and diversity.”

“We are so happy to have Monica to lead our equity and diversity efforts,” said Michelle F. “Micky” Ogburn, School Board chair and Three Chopt District representative. “She has the right mix of education, training and real world experience to make positive changes in our school system and communities. Simply put, Monica is a person who gets things done, and we look forward to having her onboard.”

In addition to facilitating the new advisory committee, Manns will develop, implement and assess Henrico Schools’ short- and long-range cultural diversity plans in pursuit of the division’s goals, and coordinate related professional development for staff members. She will collaborate with other HCPS departments on academic programs and curricula; help to recruit and retain a diverse workforce; serve as a contact point for parent and employee concerns about cultural diversity; connect with community organizations; and serve as a coach and trainer for students, families and employees on cultural diversity issues.

Manns will also help solidify new relationships with some community groups on issues of equity and diversity. The school division is expanding its work with the nonprofit Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The group provides Henrico Schools with ongoing guidance and support with challenges such as bullying, equity, racial relations, harassment, ethics and cultural responsiveness. The organization was recognized in 2013 and 2016 by the General Assembly for its work with schools, businesses and communities.

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