- Somers Central School District
Respectful Dialogue on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Parents, educators, and community members gathered to discuss the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work being done in the district. The goal of the workshop on Wednesday, October 7, was to provide transparency into the curriculum and how DEI is integrated into student learning experiences as well as professional learning for teachers.
“It was an amazing opportunity to see the planning and preparation for the many facets that encompass quality, educational experiences,” says parent Thomasine Mastrantoni.
The participants divided into nine different groups, each examining three different aspects of DEI work in the district. The three topics were: student learning experiences (curriculum), structure and organization (code of conduct, special services, board policies), and professional development (teacher education).
All aspects were open for exploration, from the books students read, to where special services are delivered, curriculum maps, embedded honors information, and presentation materials from professional learning opportunities.
“We wanted a forum where community members could engage productively around the DEI work that our students are exposed to in the classroom,” says Karin Bill, the district’s coordinator of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “We wanted participants to be able to dive into the materials we use, the language we use, and how we approach these concepts.”
An example of resources that were examined were books that are read to classes at Primrose, or might be found in a classroom or school library.
“Think of a book as both a mirror and a window,” says Superintendent Ray Blanch. “If a student moves here from a different country and has different traditions and cultural experiences at home, a book in the classroom might reflect that culture, in which case the book is a mirror and helps that student feel valued. On the other hand, that same book offers other children a window into a classmate’s experience. This process is important in understanding and appreciating each other as community members.”
“We were able to see resources, organizational structures and professional development focus areas that lead to the diversity, inclusion and equity ideals,” says Mastrontoni. “It culminated with rich discussion about the conceptualization of assessing SCSD’s mission based on the evidence seen.”
“I witnessed good, healthy conversations across the community about a challenging topic,” says Blanch. “By the end of the evening, there was consensus that our collective goal is to provide better experiences for our children, and to care for and develop a better understanding of one another.”
The next Tusker University, Family Focus event will examine the Profile of a Somers Learner and will be held October 26 from 6-7:30 p.m. The in-person location will be determined based on the number of registrants.