Dear F-M families and staff,
As instances of violence fueled by systemic racism continue to play out on a national scale, I wanted to reach out and let you know that the Fayetteville-Manlius School District Board of Education and administration continue to work toward creating a more welcoming, inclusive school community for all.
As educators, we are responsible for preparing our students in their core academic areas so they become contributing members of our society, but it is also incumbent upon us to ensure that we are graduating individuals of strong character who are compassionate and empathetic.
Racism and acts of bigotry will not be tolerated here at F-M. We do not condone violence when there are differences of opinion, and no one within our school community should ever feel less than because of such factors as race, gender, gender identity, religion or physical or mental abilities.
We condemn the recent acts of violence occurring nationally against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We are taking steps to educate ourselves and our students to be more aware of our own internal biases that could cause some members of our school community to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. We want to be a place where everyone feels like they belong and matter. Everyone has value. We are a richer community when we learn and grow from each other’s unique perspectives and experiences.
One of our strategic plan’s priority areas is establishing a safe and secure school environment where students are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of their lives. Our work in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is critical to this commitment, and throughout the 2020-21 school year, the board of education and administration continued their steps toward embedding DEI tenets throughout the district.
- In November and February, the board held retreats focused on DEI that were facilitated by Ithaca City School District Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown. Dr. Brown is a member of the AASA, The American School Superintendents Association commission on student-centered, equity-focused education. Board members read “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, and their first retreat centered around what it means to be an antiracist and how each member’s personal experiences shape their perspectives. The second retreat dove into how the board could lead an antiracist culture through such efforts as reviewing and, if necessary, rewriting district policies.
- The board’s policy committee is in the process of developing a DEI policy statement that would serve as the foundation of the district’s work in this area. The New York State Board of Regents recently announced that it is establishing a framework for districts to use in creating DEI policy statements. The draft document, which the Regents are expected to adopt in May, includes topics such as governance, teaching and learning, family and community engagement and workforce diversity. Once the Regents finalize it, F-M’s policy committee plans to review the framework and incorporate relevant elements into the district’s policy, which would then go before the full board for adoption once complete.
- In May and June, district administrators will be participating in race, diversity and educational equity training led by two OCM BOCES staff members who have significant experience and training from New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. They have also worked with schools on the implementation of the state’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework.
- In the near future, staff members will be conducting curricular audits to ensure inclusiveness and cultural responsiveness are woven into teaching and learning, such as in the selection of books and instructional materials to make sure that our students feel represented and that the experiences they are living are reflected in the classroom. We need to help our students make sense of the racial and social injustices happening around them so that they can learn, grow and invoke change. That work has begun and will continue into the 2021-22 school year and beyond.
- Board members and administrators have met with students and families from our Black, Brown, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to hear their concerns and learn how the district could better support them. We are looking for more opportunities to connect with families and students in a way that promotes open, honest conversations.
- The district has continued its long-standing partnership with Interfaith Works and the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue. During the current school year, students from F-M High School and Wellwood and Eagle Hill middle schools have been participating in meetings with children enrolled in similar grade levels in the Syracuse City School District to promote racial and social equity using a dialogue-to-action model. After expanding this year’s program to include both middle schools, the district is planning to extend the program to all three elementary schools over the course of the next year.
Meaningful and long-lasting reform takes time. Instead of looking for a “quick fix,” the district’s efforts over the past year have been deliberate and systematic in an effort to build capacity among all constituent groups, to honor the expectations of the greater school community and to engender enduring support from all stakeholders as they take ownership of the process.
Change doesn’t happen quickly in an institution as large as a school district, but it is happening here. I appreciate those students, families and staff members who have had candid conversations with me, our administrative team and members of our board of education. We look forward to having more of these conversations. In the meantime, our online Let’s Talk! communication portal is always available for you to share your thoughts and questions with us.
Craig J. Tice
Superintendent of Schools
Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District