New Paltz school district passes anti-racism policy

New Paltz Central School District board members passed an anti-racism policy at their June 16 meeting, the third meeting at which it was being discussed. It’s traditional on this board not to take action on any item until it’s considered at at least two meetings. The policy provides for extensive work to be done to align the district work culture and the school curricula with anti-racist ideology, which is intended to dismantle systemic and what author Beverly Daniel Tatum calls “individual” racism.

The work of implementing this policy will be challenging, and the setting up and monitoring of target dates is going to be part of the work of the school board for quite some time. It might have been even more challenging, had trustee Bianca Tanis gotten this policy tied to performance reviews. Tanis wanted this as a way to ensure that anyone working in the district buys into this new way of thinking. Other board members agreed that there will be staff members who do not subscribe to anti-racism, but they also heard Superintendent Angela Urbina-Medina saying that plugging in performances reviews would be a “heavy lift” because it would have to part of contract negotiations with the members of several unions. Anything in policy must be achieved, and there’s no guarantee if or when that sort of change would become part of performance reviews.

On the other hand, those who support racial equity have been stepping up to help out by offering to join the building racial equity teams. The fact that most of these teams haven’t been created thus far has gotten trustees thinking about paying some sort of stipend, but 19 people from across all disciplines have volunteered. That’s good, because it’s not clear if or how stipends might come to pass. Teachers get paid stipends for extra service positions like advising a club or managing a department, but this would be the first time stipends were paid for participating in board committee work. Trustees agreed to hold off on any such plans until after hiring a racial equity consultant, reasoning that this question may have come up in other districts.