District diversity initiative moves forward on multiple fronts

The district diversity initiative is moving forward on multiple fronts. The work has its roots in the 2015 formation of the community-based Environment and Culture Advisory Council (ECAC) that developed the District Diversity Goals adopted last year.

The purpose of the initiative is to make sure that all students feel respected, welcome and included at school – and that district policies and practices serve as a foundation for the success of each individual.

Following the development of the diversity goals, the district engaged a consultant, EquiVisible Inc., last spring to help develop an action plan to meet the goals. EquiVisible’s Dr. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard began working with a subcommittee of ECAC and provided training to the Board of Education and Leadership Team over the summer.

A next step in this work is to learn firsthand about the educational experiences in the district of students of color, defined for this phase of the initiative as students who do not identify as white. In December, EquiVisible will meet with participating middle school and high school students for a conversation that will be recorded.

Letters have gone out to families of all students of color inviting student participation. The goal is to create a setting where students can openly and honestly share perspectives about their experiences in school, the opportunities they have and what they need for success.

The video will be edited to showcase common themes, realities and successes. The content and information from the video will ultimately be used to raise awareness and inform training for faculty and staff.

In addition to the video, EquiVisible Inc. is analyzing student performance data. The goal is to ultimately have a set of recommendations that meet the needs of Niskayuna.

We seek to effectively foster the success of all students and continually become a stronger learning community. Focusing on diversity is an important part of doing that, and it takes place in many ways across the district.

At monthly student forum meetings, high school students and administrators regularly discuss embracing diversity and strengthening school climate. A variety of activities at all levels, in and out of the classroom, seek to foster a positive school culture and celebrate the rich diversity in our schools. These include the No Place for Hate initiative, which is in its second year.