MOORHEAD — Moorhead Area Public Schools has hired a local community leader to a new position created to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion for the district.

Matuor Alier was selected to become the district’s director of equity and inclusion on Tuesday, Nov. 17, four months after Fargo Public Schools hired Tamara Uselman to a similar position.

As director of equity and inclusion, Alier’s responsibilities include creating an educational environment of inclusiveness, equity and respect for all people; establishing programs and services to support students and faculty in areas of equity and inclusion; and creating a culture that embraces differences to build and empower all students, families and community employees.

In 2018, the Moorhead school district faced complaints of discrimination, which led to an agreement with the state Department of Human Rights for the district to address racial discrepancies in school discipline. The district must submit semi-annual reports demonstrating its efforts at compliance.

So far, the district reported, it instituted teacher aides to support students, started measuring achievement gaps, increased the four-year graduation rate for students of color by 10% and scheduled regular meetings to review discipline practices, among other accomplishments.

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“We are extremely fortunate to welcome Mr. Alier to our team. His lived and learned experiences, along with his strong community networks and passion for students, will help us to more richly fulfill our mission as a district to maximize the potential of every student to thrive in a changing world,” Superintendent Brandon Lunak said.

In a September interview related to how New American students are handling school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Alier said he’s worried that students of color are falling behind.

“And at every turn, they’re having trouble finding help,” he said.

Alier is chairman of the Fargo Human Relations Commission and speaks six languages. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and is the executive director for the South Sudanese Foundation of Fargo-Moorhead.

“I’m humbled and honored to be trusted with this position,” Alier said. “Creating an even more equitable education system will help all our students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be engaged and become productive members of our community. More importantly, giving all our children an equitable start leads to better economic and social outcomes for individual students, our communities, our city of Moorhead and our nation.”

Alier was picked from a pool of 30 applicants who began the application process in July. He will have an annual salary of $91,437, according to district spokeswoman Brenda Richman.