Women of Industry: At MMSD, Hargrove-Krieghoff drives diversity

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff is eager to share the credit, but make no mistake — she deserves much of it.

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff is eager to share the credit, but make no mistake — she deserves much of it.

Nationwide, school districts face challenges addressing teacher shortages and creating diverse, inclusive workforces. Three years ago, when Hargrove-Krieghoff joined the Madison Metropolitan School District as executive director of human resources, she encountered the same challenges, and she’s helping the school district overcome them.

For taking a leading role in devising a successful “DEI” program, and for serving as an example for every public and private sector organization hoping to do the same, Hargrove-Krieghoff has been named to the 2017 Women of Industry class.

Share and share alike

MMSD hired 60 teachers of color for the 2016–17 school year and is on pace to bring a new group of at least 70 teachers of color into its classrooms during the current school year. In addition, the district has made strides in diversifying its central office leadership team and the teams serving middle and high schools.

Yet when others give her sole credit for developing the practices that have improved diversity and addressing principal hiring needs, Hargrove-Krieghoff notes that Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Cheatham set the tone.

When she’s lauded for developing effective recruitment and screening tools, or for overhauling the district’s human capital strategy, she shares the credit with those who are part of the implementation team.

As the district enjoys more success in recruiting graduates of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), she praises Madison civic leaders for building the kind of community that’s attractive and welcoming to them.

Another thing she doesn’t mind sharing is the conviction that these strategies have promise in the private sector, especially for companies that want to improve their diversity and inclusion outcomes. “This can be replicated in the private sector,” she states, “but the key to the success of the replication is a real belief around this work. It’s about that belief and having a team that really values the equity work and the diversity work. These are strategies that could be successful in any organization if you have that level of commitment.”

Hargrove-Krieghoff might share the credit, but school district consultants and others give her more credit for the practices developed to improve diversity, for the process that distributed the work across the district staff, and for the details of the district’s “customer needs assessment,” which drove the diversity planning discussions between principals and HR staffers.

“We redesigned the way we work with our principals, and the concept of the customer needs assessment was an important component,” she explains. “We have HR staff that changed how they worked and became more of a business partner with principals, and so they spent and still do spend quite a bit of time working with them as a partner, helping them with their hiring for their specific building. So they are strong partners for them, they share data with them, and by developing this relationship and really understanding the needs of the schools, they are better positioned to refer candidates that match what a particular school needs.”

Based on a set of recommendations from the assessment, the district also began to take a more strategic approach about how and where it connected with job candidates, starting with a more diverse pool of candidates. “We’re specifically focusing on connecting with universities and institutions, not only at the local and regional level but even nationally,” Hargrove-Krieghoff states. “We have a higher demographic of students of color and so we really tried connecting with those universities to establish partnerships. This is an area we continue to need to build, but it’s about connecting with HBCUs, and we want to continue to do that work and be focused on creating partnerships and relationships not only locally but from a national level.”

Locally, that meant building connections with diverse publications for marketing and advertising, and engaging the Urban League of Greater Madison to post on its website, use its facilities, and partner with them on career fairs, or what the Urban League would call future employer seminars.

“As far as marketing materials go, we felt that was an area where we could improve. We initially had materials very focused on what it’s like to live in Madison, as a recruiting point. We wanted to make the point and provide information to folks about what it’s like to live here, and also be a part of the Madison Metropolitan School District. So it was about living and working rather than just living.”

It was also about mitigating bias, first by acknowledging that it exists — not the end of the world but the beginning of self-improvement — and understanding how it filters into the work environment, often starting right at the beginning of the employee life cycle. “We’re specifically talking about the interview process,” notes Hargrove-Krieghoff, “and so some of the things we have done specifically in working with our principals, as they move through their interview process for selecting teachers, is to focus on words that might enter into the interview. So before an interview even happens, it’s about having an opportunity to acknowledge that it even exists, discuss how it might show up in the interview process.”



Another task was to design a recruiting process that is aligned with competency requirements. With the support of existing teachers and principals, the district established a set of competencies that are important. “We call them a beginner’s set of competencies that we want to see all teachers come into the school district with, and we use those competencies through the interview process,” she explains. “They are aligned to a rubric, and they are also aligned to a series of questions that principals can use in that process.”

The school district does not conduct a traditional question-and-answer interview; rather, it has a process that is very performance and demonstration-based. The interview teams are trained to collect the evidence that shows a teaching or administrative candidate has demonstrated the competence necessary to, as Hargrove-Krieghoff puts it, “perform the role.”

“That’s pretty key for us in terms of the mitigation of bias, as well,” she adds. “This is not about somebody that we feel good about, it’s about somebody who has demonstrated their competence to perform the role. We have competencies and a rubric that we align it to, and we use the evidence we’ve captured to have the discussion and make the decisions about the candidates moving forward.”

Affirmative teamwork

For Hargrove-Krieghoff, the Women of Industry honor is very humbling because she realizes she’s not the only person dedicated to helping organizations step up their diversity, equity, and inclusion game. “I know there are a lot of very talented people out there doing HR work, and equity and diversity work, so it’s an honor to be considered and I certainly appreciate the support and recognition from my leader [Cheatham] and the colleagues who I work with,” she says. “It’s just affirming for me that we’re doing the right work and that our district is moving in the right direction as it relates to diversity and equity.”

Read the rest of our 2017 Women of Industry features:

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