Friday, May 27th

School Board Reviews Implementation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy

paintOn April 12, 2021, the Scarsdale School Board adopted a district-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy. During the May 10 School Board Business Meeting, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman and Assistant Superintendent Edgar McIntosh provided the Board with the first update of how the administration plans to implement the policy and foster diverse and inclusive learning environments across Scarsdale schools.

To begin, Hagerman stated that “as we embark on this work… we want to be very clear, we want to be thoughtful, we want to be deliberative as we share out this information with the broader community… we want to ground this work in something that is meaningful. We want to make sure we are not bringing in some kind of liberal agenda into the district, but this work is very much grounded in the state guidance being provided for us as well as our local school board policies.”

The pillars of the DEI policy are to create positive and inclusive learning environments, foster broad representation in curriculum, create professional development on historical injustices and inequalities that have led to institutional education barriers as a means to eliminate them, develop curriculum and instructional materials that will reflect educational equity, and establish goals and metrics for this policy work.

Currently, the work of implementing this policy sits with the Compact Committee. This committee will review and adopt the education framework, select annual goals based on the framework, determine measurable metrics for these goals, create a communication plan for the work, and advise the administration on choosing district consultants to assist with implementation. Board Member Ron Schulhof pressed the administration and asked how confident they are that the Compact Committee is the right fit for managing the DEI initiative. Hagerman stated that the administration will evaluate and potentially designate the work to a different committee next year, but for now, they believe that this will be the most efficient way to implement the policy for the remainder of this school year.

Moving forward with DEI, the administration plans to coordinate with district partners, including the Scarsdale Teacher Institute (STI), the Parent-Teacher conference, Parent Teacher Associations, school-based multi-cultural committees, and Scarsdale Village. For the 2021-2022 school year, the goals are:

• Ensure the entire school community has access to and understands the New York State Diversity and Inclusion framework and principles
• Use Board of Education policy to guide goal setting and priorities
• Implement Compact Committee goals
• Review curriculum through the lens of DEI
• Design district-wide professional learning
• Integrate into the strategic plan and set long term goals

Dr. Edgar McIntosh reviewed how DEI is already being implemented across Scarsdale.

-On a district-wide level, there is a continuation and enrichment of STI professional development, employment of level-specific consultations, innovation and sharing of best practices, and multilingual library sections in every school.

-In the elementary schools, there are multicultural classroom libraries, special recognition events that celebrate multiculturalism, and the “One Book, One School” program that highlights themes of acceptance and belonging.

-In the middle school, they are using the structure of CORE to support team building and belonging, expanding reading choices, holding Human Rights Day, and hosting Level Up Village, a program where middle schoolers partner with and learn from students all over the world.

-In the high school, student surveys and committee participation is helping shape the conversation. In addition, there is Global Citizenship Day and the Global Learning Alliance, where students analyze complicated issues of belonging and identity with international students and present their findings.

The presentation was well received by the Board, and President Pam Fuehrer emphasized that in addition to addressing multiculturalism, the DEI policy will work to address differences across the spectrum, from race, sexual orientation, ability, and much more. Board member Carl Finger pointed out that while the Board feels very comfortable discussing this topic, many parents in the community may not know how to broach these discussions with their children. He highlighted the need to do effective outreach on the DEI policy so that what students learn in the classroom can also be reinforced at home.

Vice President Alison Tepper Singer also noted that while there has been a lot of national media coverage claiming that these types of policies can stifle student voices, this is the “opposite” of Scarsdale’s intent, and it will not be the outcome of DEI. Fuehrer also inquired how regularly the administration plans to update the Board on the progress of this policy, and Hagerman stated that the administration plans to carve out a specific time to provide updates so that DEI remains a priority. Board member Robert Klein added that some in the community may not agree with the policy, and these topics may not be widely accepted, and therefore the administration should “err on the side of over communicating rather than under communicating.”

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