Several New Paltz School District residents who spoke in favor of restoring the Diversity Committee during last week’s school board meeting, were given good news by Superintendent Maria Rice: it will be returning in some form in 2018, she said.
Maureen Crocker told trustees that the committee is a way to draw upon the collective skills present in the community. A.J. Williams-Myers added that this is particularly important as district officials explore ways to improve racial equity. Several others also voiced support for the concept.
The committee was only “suspended,” Rice said, and would be reinstated “as soon as we can” after the holidays, in a “slightly reorganized” form. Members of the district-wide committee should expect invitations to return, she said. At the building level, the decision-making would be organized around “cadres” of teachers and staff members.
“Communication will be key” among cadres and the district-wide committee, Rice said, such as when it comes to acting on issues with a racial dimension. What the superintendent would like to see are details of various situations shared and discussed, but any specifics would need to be first vetted by the district attorney to ensure no privacy rules are being violated.
Rice believes it’s possible to develop a nuanced response. “If two kids have an incident, but no one else is aware of the specifics, do we need a letter home to all parents? If all kids know, then we probably do. Those conversations are the first step.”
The idea of better communication was echoed by Robin Sheridan, who commented that people of color have a “legacy of not being heard.” She urged trustees to follow up on the issue of racial equity sooner than February, to build on existing momentum.