F-M leaders pledge to make diversity, equity top priorities

As one school year ends and another begins, Fayetteville-Manlius School District leaders continue to focus on providing students and staff with a positive and safe learning and working environment. 

The Board of Education’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) met on June 17, 2020, to discuss a number of topics including, but not limited to, the successful budget vote and recent correspondence received from community members via email, letter and the “Let’s Talk!” online communication platform.

“This is a time of reflection for us,” F-M Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “As we prepare for the 2020-21 school year, we are thinking more intentionally about racial equity and how we can better support our students, staff and community members.”

On June 3, Dr. Tice released a message to the community about the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In that article, Dr. Tice said, “Most importantly, we must work together and continue our conversations around racial equity while removing barriers that contribute to systemic inequities.” 

Following Dr. Tice’s statement, F-M made some resources available on June 11 that could be used when talking with children about the events that have taken place in our country.

“Embracing racial equity in policy, practice and procedure is a priority,” Dr. Tice said. “We will continue to further embed an equity framework into all practices and policies.”

Presently, the F-M Board of Education policy book has a number of policies in place that address equality and non-discrimination, including: 3420 (Non-discrimination and anti-harassment in the school district); 6120 (Equal Employment Opportunity); 7550 (Dignity for all students); 8242 (Civility, citizenship and character education/interpersonal violence prevention education); 8130 (Equal educational opportunities); and the District Code of Conduct.

As the district is introspective and reflective about its practices, school officials will continue to engage in thoughtful conversations about taking steps to not only promote equity, but to ensure that all students and staff feel like an integral part of the school community. This is something that was discussed when a group of F-M High School students approached the board in mid-winter to request that district officials recognize two Muslim holidays when developing future school calendars. As such, the district is committed to the goal to not only build cultural competency and awareness but to support and empower students, staff members and educators.

Supporting students has been a lynchpin in the district’s response. Counselors, teachers, administrators, social workers, school resource officers, and home/school liaisons work in concert to provide the social-emotional supports and connections that are mission critical for serving as a trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive school district. 

Accordingly, the district remains committed to its successful School Information Resource Officer (SIRO) program. The primary duty of the SIRO program is to establish relationships with the children and to act as a resource, mentor, and role model for the students. Worth mentioning is that the SIRO officers help to expand educational opportunities by collaborating with teachers to develop instruction in core areas of study including, but not limited to, court procedures, citizenship and forensic science. The officers who serve as SIROs also work to ensure the safety of the students, faculty and staff in addition to helping school administrators identify and address safety issues and concerns within the schools.

To supplement these ongoing discussions, the board of education and the administrative cabinet will be participating in a book study on racial equity designed to promote self-reflection. This important first step will help the board guide future conversations around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion at F-M.

In addition, the district is planning to continue its long-standing partnership with Interfaith Works and the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue. Similar to past years, this collaborative experience will involve students from F-M High School, Wellwood Middle School, and Eagle Hill Middle School participating in meetings with children who are enrolled in similar grade levels in the Syracuse City School District.

“We care deeply about the well-being of our students and staff members,” Dr. Tice said. “But we need to show them concern through our actions.”