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Letter to the community about the District’s Race, Inclusivity and Community Task Force: 4/23/21

April 23, 2021

 

In recent weeks, the Board of Education has received several comments (via email and at our public Board Meetings) about the Race, Inclusivity and Community Taskforce.  We are writing this letter in response to those inquiries and to provide more detail about the formation of the task force.  

The Race, Inclusivity and Community Taskforce is in the early stages of identifying areas of need and opportunities for growth related to inclusion in our schools.  There has been no adoption of any specific theories related to race, equity or inclusion or any proposed changes to curriculum, policy or practice in the Rye City School District.  We invite our community to watch and participate in the May 4th Board of Education meeting to learn more about why the Task Force was formed, the nature of the work to date, and the discussion around next steps.

The decision to form a school community task force was based on the outpouring of communication from both former and current students that detailed their personal experiences of ethnic and racial intolerance within our schools.  In response, the Superintendent and Board of Education began the process of creating a dialogue around equity and inclusion within our school community, not only as it relates to race and ethnicity, but also to gender identity or expression, sexuality, religion, and disability. The District’s use of a task force approach has been previously utilized and proven effective in finding ways to address complex matters. 

Communication of the purpose and a call for volunteers was shared broadly via a public announcement at the June 16th Board of Education meeting and a letter distributed from the District and sent to local media outlets for publication. The application response was significant.  The number of task force members was capped to ensure a manageable group that could function effectively. Taskforce selection was based solely on when applications were received.  The task force has 65 members made up of students/alumni, parents, faculty and community members. 

The School District then identified and evaluated four organizations with national and local expertise in facilitating inclusivity discussions. The District signed a one-year agreement with The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (Metro Center) in July 2020 and again discussed it publicly at a presentation in August.  The Metro Center’s role has been as a facilitator that has guided the Task Force members in conversations regarding equity and inclusivity, looking at big questions like: To what degree do our students feel that Rye schools are equitable, inclusive learning environments? To what degree do students feel recognized and supported as unique individuals with diverse identities and needs? At our May 4th Board of Education, meeting representatives of the Task Force will provide an update to the Board and community about their work thus far.  

Last week, the NY State Board of Regents announced an initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools across New York State. As the first step in the initiative, the Regents released a draft framework and call-to-action for all schools in New York State to develop policies that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion as a priority. The Regents have indicated that they will provide resources to assist Districts as they begin to undertake this work.  While our school Task Force has begun the conversations around some of what the Regents recently outlined, there is much discussion and work to do.  We look forward to seeing and assessing, alongside our touchstone, The Rye Commitment, what the Regents develop to support this work in school districts. 

We believe that our school community is united around the importance of inclusion in our schools and we hope you will be able to attend the May 4th Board meeting so you can hear first-hand the work of the Task Force to date. 

 

The Rye City School Board of Education

Jane Anderson, Jennifer Boyle, Callie Erickson, Vivek Kamath, 

Chris Repetto, Kelly Smith-Powers, Tom Stein