Present: Matt Cutler, Eva Jones, Matt Grimes, Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, Angela Dixon, Allison Nunez, Bill Anders, Dara Weingarten, Kristin Sweeter, Tammy Weingarten, Lauren Gemmill, John Moskov, Father Stephanos Doudoukjian, Samhita Koduri, Amanda Brazee, Kim Mousaw, Carey Merill
Diversity/Equity — Matt Grimes
Equity Coordinator Matt Grimes shared a PowerPoint presentation on his diversity findings and what he’s learned so far in the district Shared current diversity “snapshot” — 1,355 non-white students. 2,901 white students. 5% African American 16% Asian, 5% Hispanic, 3% Multi-Racial.
Shared information on male vs. female, white vs. non-white, free and reduced lunch vs. non free and reduced, special ed vs. non-special ed in their Grades 3-8 ELA/Math testing and gaps
Equity areas of focus:
- Staff training and development— has started rolling out diversity videos with staff, choice professional development for teachers at Craig
- Student and family support — student and family support (two new clubs focused on diversity at HS)
- Community engagement partnerships — study circles, No Place for Hate, conference at Siena, working to form two permanent adult councils between Nisky/Schenectady, also identifying students to create a council – 8 students from each school, to work on addressing issues
- Eva Jones shared that we are looking into how can we look at our hiring processes to include more diversity. Administration has also talked about finding mentors and partnerships in the community/business partners so we can grow in the areas of equity/diversity.
Approaches to Anti-bias
Angela Dixon — Capital Region Chamber
- In October 2017, the chamber recognized that the chambers that were most successful valued equity/diversity.
- The chamber did a survey to see what employers in the area felt about diversity/inclusion and what they are doing about it.
- Results were positive in this area. Many business owners recognized the need to do something. The leaders at the chamber felt there needed to be a leader responsible for moving the initiative forward.
- Angela accepted job in March 2018. Once she started, she collected data to see where businesses stood on diversity/inclusion and then created a plan that made sense.
- Inclusion is what makes something meaningful for someone. If people aren’t brought to the table and felt like they’re involved in something that matters, then it won’t matter to them.
- Angela’s role is to support employers in our area on the “how to.” (Looking at job descriptions to see if they are inclusive, fresh look at processes from a different prospective.)
- It’s important to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion more openly, like it’s not a secret.
- Individuals who have been most successful in their careers – along their journey, they have had a mentor who has helped them and seen their potential. Goes a long way and shows the student that they are seen and there in an interest in them.
- If there are opportunities to connect businesses to students, the chamber would like to connect with them.
- Angela talked about getting young people involved in PTECH, which the chamber and businesses leaders are involved with.
- What’s important about bias is being aware of it.
- Looking at educating about hiring and the biases that come with it as well.
- Business leaders Angela has met with are all excited about partnering with and working with students. We need to figure out what we want from them so that they can consider it.
Committee Updates — Chairperson Reports
Matt Grimes shared updates from recent subcommittee meetings. They talked about “how can we be better engaged with families of color?” Talking about hosting an event where we can invite families of color, maybe in the Rosendale cafeteria. There is a subcommittee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 16 to talk more. The subcommittee is also talking about gender equity and trainings, use of language and how to create a more inclusive environment. Also discussed “How do we better send a message about district calendar holidays to families and staff that it’s okay to miss school on those day?” There will be a recommendation to send a letter from the district office when the calendar goes out.
Bill Anders shared that the Craig Diversity Fair was very successful. Food, projects. 50 students total from Mohon, Schenectady, Nisky went to Union College for study circles to talk about bias and perceptions. Subcommittee is looking at organizing the Multi-Cultural Fair. Trying to get more people involved. Subcommittee would like to open one of our ECAC meetings to the school community (adults and students) and call it “Dessert and Diversity,” to allow families to ask questions, brainstorm, and list ideas of events.
John Moskov shared there is a lot going on with both active initiatives and things that the subcommittee will be making recommendations on. New this year- there is a safe mental health space in VA. It’s used for students to take breaks, meet with friends or a mental health counselor, etc. Looking to expand this to other schools as well- just need to find space. The subcommittee is working on expanding “Spring Fling” at the high school in April. Committee had recommended there be a panel that discusses “high school life” and navigating what that looks like, etc. The subcommittee also looked at running a mental health fair, but Schenectady already does one. We could potentially do it in partnership, with Schenectady hosting. We will need to help promote the event as a community-wide health fair. Subcommittee is exploring mental health effects on students in advanced placement classes. Also working on suggestions for staff development, possibly some sort of “emotional first aid” for staff. The subcommittee is looking at board policies and how ours should reflect mental health curriculum in the district. “Starts with Hello” week held last week at the high school came out of work from the mental health subcommittee. The group is now working on a possible “disconnect to connect” event.
Multi-Cultural Event — Brainstorming and Discussion
- Samhita has been working on this event since summer/early September
- The idea is to host a multi-cultural fair at the high school that focuses on diversity, inclusion, equity, etc., in which students could express your ethnicity and make people aware of other cultures/celebrations in many ways. Student and outside organization participation. Potential date in March – need to be cognizant of holidays in March
- If there was enough lead time, students and their families would be able to participate. Community centers and colleges locally would be people to reach out to
- A keynote speaker has been secured- Rwandan Genocide survivor. Hoped to have her and the fair at the same time. She is unavailable in March. She is secured for Feb. 11.
- Feb. 11 event speaker will be two assemblies for the student body. While one half is in the speaker, the other half will be in their homeroom with their teachers talking about the speaker/use the students who have been trained in ADL training to share what they’ve learned.
- Tammy Weingarten shared Niska-Day is a great place for where ECAC can deliver more information to the community about what the committee is doing, etc.
- Talked about better publicizing news clubs in the high school (Affinity and Sisters in Solidarity)