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Community Conversation

Please join us on October 28 at 7:30pm for a Community Conversation on Equity and Inclusion

Please join us on October 28 at 7:30pm for a Community Conversation on Equity and Inclusion in our Schools.

The event is being hosted by CHUFSD, in partnership with the NYU Metro Center, and will be facilitated by Natalie Zwerger, Director of the Center for Strategic Solutions at NYU. For the safety of participants during COVID-19, the conversation will be held virtually (see link below). Parents, students, staff, and all other members of our educational community are invited to attend. This event is one component of a multi-year, district initiative to advance work on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
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Diversity, inclusivity and social justice have long been hallmarks of the Croton-Harmon Union Free School District mission. Now, the district is joining forces with the NYU Metro Center to find new ways to support these goals.
 
The district’s Strategic Coherence Plan for 2017-2022 envisions that, “All Croton-Harmon students will develop the habits of mind and social skills to become life-long learners, able to contribute to the well-being of society.” Part of this vision includes teaching students the importance of empathy and collaboration, both of which are elements of the Croton-Harmon “Profile of a Graduate.”
 
As the events of this year continue to push issues of racial and economic inequality to the forefront of our national consciousness, the district is more committed than ever to raising awareness of these issues and molding students into compassionate, politically conscious adults who are equipped to challenge the injustices of the twenty-first century. To this end, Croton-Harmon has partnered with the NYU Metro Center, formally known as the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
 
Led by Westchester resident Dr. Natalie Zwerger, the Metro Center is dedicated to researching issues of equity and education. The center separates issues into nine categories: student performance, teacher capacity, parent engagement and empowerment, immigrant transitional education, cultural and linguistic diversity, gender identity constructs, academic abilities and engagement,teacher and student career pathways, and community stakeholder models. The Center then applies its research by consulting with school districts to foster equity and racial justice in the schools and larger community.
 
“[We] work to embed racial justice, equity and inclusion into the fabric of what we do with kids,” said Dr. Zwerger, adding that the work is “so much more than legal compliance...the work is timely, and also tied to the current political/electoral situation.”
 
The center’s consultations with school districts generally begin with town hall forums aimed at gathering information about issues of inequity that residents have experienced and ways they think those issues could be addressed.
 
In setting goals for the partnership, Board of Education member Iris Bugliosi asked Dr. Zwerger about the best approach for Croton-Harmon, given the small number of students of color in the district. Zwerger explained that the focus is not exclusively on race, but on a broader definition of inclusion comprising those with disabilities, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those from different economic classes.
 
Following Dr. Zwerger’s recommendation, the district plans to hold a Community Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion in our schools where Dr. Zwerger will introduce the work of the Metro Center, then serve as a moderator for an open discussion where parents, students and community members will all be welcome to, “speak their truth.” The event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 28th, at 7:30pm. Dr. Zwerger believes it is critical that these conversations not be limited to students and their families even though the focus will be on
the schools.
 
One of the overall goals is to build partnerships among community and student-based diversity and inclusion groups already at work in Croton-Harmon schools. Dr. Zwerger also stressed the importance of welcoming the voices of all students who have felt ostracized, including those who may be labelled as racist due to their beliefs. There will be a pre-registration for this forum in order to keep the number of attendees manageable.
 
In addition to fostering open, honest discussions, Dr. Zwerger and her team also will be evaluating curricula to see what the schools already do well and what could be added to further promote equality. There also will be a focus on professional development in the district, including the faculty and staff.
 
“This is incredibly important work that we are undertaking and there aren’t any quick fixes,”
said Superintendent Deborah O’Connell. “We aren’t just addressing systemic inequality; we also have to examine the way students interact with each other. Given the Metro Center’s individualized and thoughtful approach, I’m confident that we will make progress. I’m really looking forward to it.”