The statement Tuesday and its wider distribution Friday come in the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter march in Rye, an online petition calling for “racial awareness and diversity within the Rye High School student body and faculty” and the Rye City Council resolution on LGBTQ+ Pride month.
(PHOTO: The organizers of the Rye Black Lives Matter march and protest Cristiana Villani (RHS’15) and Amanda Yannett (RHS ’15).)
Here is the statement and link to a video of the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday:
Dear Rye Community,
At the June 16 Board of Education meeting, the following was shared with the community:
“Race, equity and inclusivity are incredibly important topics that must be addressed by schools and communities. I am so impressed by the courage and leadership being shown by our students and alumni as they challenge all of us to do better. It is never easy to share painful experiences with others and it is upsetting to know that experiences in school may have caused pain. School should be a place where students learn, grow, and develop in a comfortable, safe environment.
As educators, we are committed to providing a school environment that is inclusive, just, and focused on equity for all. As such, it is incumbent upon us to begin and pursue a conversation that explores the issues of racism, inclusivity, equity, and community. This critically important discussion will not be easy and may be emotional for many. The Rye City School District has begun the process to create a forum to begin these conversations. Our administrative team is working to bring representative voices of our community together to tackle this important issue.
We have begun forming a task force that will take on the challenge of ensuring that we provide a school environment that supports all students and provides equity in opportunity. We are committed to following a comprehensive process that will seek to identify areas where we fall short, opportunities for growth and in developing a plan that will ensure we achieve equity for all. The task force on race, inclusivity and community will focus on several key areas:
Professional Development and Staff Support
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
The task force will bring together stakeholders including students/alumni, faculty and community members to participate in this important work. A detailed action plan will be created that will guide information gathering and analysis, goal setting, communication structures, and timelines for the work ahead. The task force will identify community-based organizations and experts in the field of equity to become our partners in this critically important work.
I know that change is long overdue and I am confident that our school community is up to the challenge and will do the hard work necessary to make lasting change and ensure equity for all in the Rye City Schools.”
The Board of Education and administration have heard the feedback from the community, our students, and alumni about areas that need to be addressed and we are committed to doing so. We want the community to know the steps we are taking to create real, lasting change and must work through a series of thoughtful and deliberate processes to ensure pervasive and enduring results.
The task force, currently composed of faculty and staff with varying backgrounds, will meet next week to define the composition of the task force and set a schedule of meetings. We expect the task force will ultimately include:
We anticipate the task force will work to form partnerships with community organizations and outside experts for resources, expertise, and to extend the reach of the Rye City School District community beyond current students, parents, faculty, and staff.
Once members are identified and recruited, the task force will then develop an action plan. The Board and I believe collecting data that reflects our student’s social and academic experiences is crucial. With this goal in mind, we would expect the task force to field anonymous, short- and long-answer surveys of current RMS and RHS 6th through 12th graders and RCSD alumni.
Using data collected from the survey as well as additional school and district-based data, the task force will be charged with goal setting to determine specific action steps and a timeline for those action items. Additionally, the District is beginning a comprehensive curriculum review to identify areas for modification and improvement. The Board of Education Policy Committee will conduct a thorough policy review to determine which policies need to be revised and if any additional policies must be developed.
There is vital work to be done to create a more equitable, inclusive environment in our schools and we are committed to ensuring that change happens. As the task force moves forward with their work, we will provide regular communication with all stakeholders. We thank the task force in advance for their service to our schools and to the broader Rye community.
Dr. Eric Byrne
Superintendent of Schools
Jennifer Boyle, President; Jane Anderson; Callie Erickson, Blake Jines-Storey, Chris Repetto, Kelly Smith-Powers
The Rye City School District Board of Education
You can see Dr. Bryne delivering the above comments at the Rye City School District meeting last Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Advance this video to the 34:10 minute mark.