An open Letter to the New Paltz Board of Education:
The Racial Equity Coalition has serious concerns regarding the superintendent and board of education’s (BOE) follow through on the“Action Plan for Addressing Racial Equity and Creating Culturally Proficient District,” based upon the recent way the district has handled the hiring of key administrators. The processes used have brought to light great concerns about the entire hiring process (recruitment, candidate selection, interviews and final selection) at the New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) and in particular underline the lack of written policies and procedures.
The turnover in school positions provides an opportunity for the NPCSD superintendent and BOE to recruit and hire staff who respond to and address the vision, goals and priorities of the school district as expressed through the Educational Master Plan. It has come to light that little recruitment, except through OLAS (the regional staff recruitment tool through BOCES), was done when staff persons were needed in the school district. In addition, there are no public or transparent criteria used when selecting candidates to be interviewed from the applicant pool. In a system extremely familiar with the concept of rubrics, there are none available to the public for comment or review when key staff hiring decisions are made. This includes initial screening criteria, as well as final selection criteria. Parent involvement has only been for the highest level of positions; outreach to parents for interview participation has been limited; and there is a question as to whether or not the appropriate consideration has been given to parent opinion and whether feedback from parents about the candidates has been made available to, or been considered by, the superintendent.
Individual members of the Racial Equity Coalition and the Concerned Parents Group (another long-standing community group working to expose and eliminate policies and procedures that embody structural racism within the New Paltz schools) both of which are distinct from the REIAC (Racial Equity Initiative Advisory Committee — a BOE subcommittee) expressed grave concerns at the rapid hiring of the current middle school principle to replace the retiring principal. The hiring was done within four business days, with only four BOE members weighing in (and one was outgoing) and no parental involvement. The middle school principal was granted a four-year contract. No one disputes the quality of the person hired for the position. The point is that this was a critical juncture in the life of the New Paltz Middle School. The replacement for this position warranted careful consideration and, equally important, parent and community input. After the dismay at this hiring, parents were then included in the hiring process of the new middle school assistant principal. However, some parents who participated reported having in-depth discussions with the BOE and the superintendent expressing concerns with the manner in which their input was integrated into the process. Members of the Racial Equity Coalition, Concerned Parents and a group of NPCSD parents (111 signatories in total) provided feedback to the board as a result of the above.
Recently, the Duzine principal retired and the high school assistant principal resigned. The initial recruitment end dates have been moved back by a few weeks, due to the feedback and reaction to the above. An interim principal has been appointed until the end of October at Duzine and the deadline for applicants for the high school assistant principal has been pushed back to the end of this month. A one-sentence advertisement was placed in the New York Times, but it is questionable as to the recruitment value of this advertisement. The Racial Equity Coalition calls for a written policy and rubric for the recruiting, screening and hiring of New Paltz school administrators, psychologists, social workers, teachers and support staff that has been vetted and changed based upon the input and feedback of the Racial Equity Initiative Advisory Committee. The policy needs to include the requirement that parents and community members participate as equal and integral members in the interview and selection process of school personnel. Moreover, that the recruitment for the parents on the interview committee needs to be far-reaching and public.
In order to provide the time for the above processes to develop and come to completion, the Racial Equity Coalition asks that no administrators (principals, assistant principal, director of student services, etc.) be appointed for more than a one-year term and that the recruitment end dates for the Duzine principal and the high school assistant principal be extended until March of 2019.
The Racial Equity Coalition applauds the allocation of funds for school personnel and BOE members to attend the “Undoing Racism” conference that will be held at the end of September and in November. It is very important, however, that all newly appointed administrators, psychologists and current administrators, guidance counselors, social workers and BOE members attend this conference if they have not done so previously. Their attendance at this conference will provide an important context for personal reflection and deeper knowledge into what racism is and provide the common language for discussion and policy changes going forward. The Racial Equity Coalition also asks that students who make a request, through the principal or guidance counselor, be permitted to attend the “Undoing Racism” conference and not be marked absent from school.
The Racial Equity Coalition recognizes that additional actions are in process to address the above concerns. However, until these actions are part of a written policy with specific procedures which have been developed with input and guidance from the REIAC, they continue to inadequately address underlying issues of structural racism. The work of the Racial Equity Initiative insures that the NPCSD is recruiting candidates who are most qualified in all ways, who best reflect the values and aspirations of our community, best practices in public education, and school personnel who are able to live out the values of racial equity that most people in the New Paltz Central School District espouse and support.
-New Paltz Racial Equity Coalition