The Guilderland Central School District has hired its first director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Matthew Pinchinat, who began his new job on September 20. This is a newly created position to help the district promote equity, social justice and anti-racism for its students and community.
Matt has served as a social studies teacher for Guilderland High School since 2017 in addition to advising GHS’s Black Student Union, serving on the steering committee of the GHS Anti-Racism Committee and working with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee of the Board of Education. “I love being a teacher and will miss being in the classroom but this new position will enable me to have a much larger impact and make a broader change with students of all grade levels,” Pinchinat said. “I see this as a real gift. This position aligns with the very reason I became a teacher: to help students see the intrinsic value in themselves. I want to help them celebrate their diverse backgrounds.”
Matt’s work with the Board of Education’s DEI Committee has given him a head start on building relationships and collaborating with stakeholders. He served on a subcommittee tasked with creating professional development for staff, a student voices committee and participated in two book studies. As part of the GHS Anti-Racism Committee, Matt worked with students to build messaging in support of students of color and worked on the team that oversaw students’ planning of the Anti-Hate Rally, held in June. He would like to build on this previous work and leverage the relationships he has already established by leaning on the vast “web of experience at my disposal: staff, students, DEI Committee members, board members”. Matt feels the best way to amplify the work that’s already been done and to move forward is by leaning into other’s strengths.
These goals are part of a long-range vision, as Matt recognizes lasting change doesn’t happen overnight but in small increments. He plans to build on the support in each of the spheres of the GCSD community: Board of Education members, administrators, teachers, students and families. This support, while meaningful, is the basis for necessary growth.
His initial goals are to become acquainted with areas of GCSD he is not familiar with, such as elementary students and faculty, and district staff. He wants to establish a strong presence on the internet and to connect with other area schools doing strong DEI work to learn best practices. In the long term Matt would like to expand programs such as National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) and Sources of Strength beyond GHS to other district schools. “I think it’s so important to build empathy, because empathy is the way we build bridges to each other.” Ultimately, his goal is to have systems in place for older students to interact regularly with younger students, creating stronger bonds within the district.
Matt recognizes at the heart of this work is the basic human need to be accepted and to have a place to belong. He believes diversity, equity and inclusion applies to every person. “I would like all members of the GCSD community to proudly say that everyone has a voice and a place at the table.” His ultimate goal is to elevate the district and have everyone included in this growth. “I do not want to elevate someone while tearing someone else down. I’m all about building up.”
A graduate of Shaker High School, Matt is a native of Albany and has strong ties to the area. He earned his undergraduate degree at Siena College and his masters at Clarkson, formerly Union Graduate College. In his free time, Matt enjoys listening to, writing and playing music; as a teacher he often rewrote song lyrics as a way to teach his students. He plays all percussion instruments, including the drum set, in addition to other instruments such as piano and guitar, where he counts himself a beginner. He also loves to play basketball, to cook, learn languages and travel. A significant moment of his life was witnessing the joy in his mother’s eyes when he and his siblings saw her Caribbean birthplace for the first time.
“Matt has been a valued educator at Guilderland High School and we are so excited for him to assume this new role,” said Superintendent Dr. Marie Wiles. “Our primary DEI objective is to ensure all of our students, families and employees are heard, seen, safe, valued, respected and welcome in our school community and I can’t think of anyone more capable to lead this charge.”