Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee offers the district a first round of recommendations

F-M’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is ready to hit the ground running in the 2023-24 school year – the first full school year the committee will be in place. The district began accepting requests from individuals looking to serve on the committee in October of 2022 and held its inaugural meeting in March of 2023. The committee subsequently held meetings in April, May, and June.

The first four DEI Committee meetings were facilitated by Drs. Ynesse Abdul-Malak and John Palmer, both of whom are community members and professors at Colgate University.

“For me, it was a way to give back, and also to be in the room where decisions are made related to something that affects me personally living in this town,” explained Abdul-Malak, who raised two children in the F-M school district.

There are many complex issues that are associated with DEI work. During the committee’s inaugural meetings, time was spent talking about how concepts such as implicit bias and microaggressions are understood and defined by all committee members. This helped everyone come to a mutual understanding about the topics they would be discussing in the meetings to come. Group members were also given scenarios, which were actual incidents that have happened to people of color, those in the LGBTQ community, and those with disabilities.

Committee members were asked to discuss how they would react if they saw something similar happen and were encouraged to share their thoughts.

As facilitators, Abdul-Malak said she and Palmer helped guide the conversation at meetings and helped the committee members come up with action items they believe the school district needs to work on. They also sat with Superintendent Tice and board of education members after each meeting to summarize what was discussed and relay any action items that the committee may have come up with during the meeting.

Following the first four meetings, the committee had a list of recommendations for the district, including: the need to create a more diverse staff that represents the entire F-M school district community, clearer communication from the district when race-related incidents occur on campus, and implementing mandatory DEI training for all school district staff. The committee also recommended stronger mental health support for students.

“Many community members do want change and understand the importance of DEI,” said Abdul-Malak. “Often times the other side is louder, so you might believe they are the majority, but the truth is, the majority of people at F-M are on board with DEI, which is very encouraging.”

Following the committee’s June meeting, all members were divided up into four subcommittees that reflect the pillars of the NYS Education Department’s DEI framework for school districts. The subcommittees – A Welcoming and Affirming Environment, Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment, High Expectation and Rigorous Instruction, and Ongoing Professional Learning and Support – were expected to meet throughout the summer months to come up with more concrete action items, which will then be discussed when full meetings pick back up in the fall.

Committee members hope that this school year, their recommendations will be considered by district administrators and school board members, and changes will be made. As members create more action items, they will be looking to the district to assess which suggestions have been implemented.

The committee plans to meet twice in the fall, and three times between the winter and spring of the 2023-24 school year. The meetings are open to the public.