The Rye Board of Education says “some lingering misinformation [is] being perpetuated about the [Race] Task Force. The communication from the Board of Ed came last week, after its May 4th meeting when it spoke about the status of the Race, Inclusivity and Community Task Force.
Some discussion around the Task Force seems to be a manifestation of national and global culture wars right here in our City. As they said repeatedly at the May 4th meeting, the communication stated the “Board of Education is committed to our District maintaining a high-quality, rigorous program that is anchored in the assurances of The Rye Commitment” and went on to outline its Task Force work:
Date: Wed, May 12, 2021 at 6:10 PM
Subject: Race Inclusivity and Community Task Force Update
To: Rye City School District Recipients
Dear Rye Community,
At the May 4th Board of Education meeting, we heard clear consensus from all who spoke about both the need for the Race, Inclusivity and Community Task Force and the desire to have a stronger sense of inclusion in our schools for all students. Still, there is some lingering misinformation being perpetuated about the work and the Task Force. We are writing to correct these inaccuracies and provide the facts.
The Rye City School District has long held high standards for educational excellence. The Board of Education is committed to our District maintaining a high-quality, rigorous program that is anchored in the assurances of The Rye Commitment.
The well-being of all our students and their sense of belonging are essential in allowing students to achieve their fullest potential. Therefore, at the onset of the Task Force, it was understood:
- There is so much to learn as it relates to the experiences of all our students (vis-a-vis LGBTQ+, special education, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, gender, identity)
- The group should focus on understanding our students’ experiences in school and find opportunities for growth and change related to inclusion
- Special education and LGBTQ+ informed representation was imperative
- The work is just beginning, needs to be thoughtful, and is expected to be conducted to ensure gathering a comprehensive set of information
In response to student and alumni reports of racial intolerance, a task force was formed. Recognizing the challenge ahead, experts in the field of diversity and inclusion were assessed. Last July, we entered into a one-year agreement with the Metropolitan Center at NYU Steinhardt, which concludes in June 2021. Their role has always been focused on helping to facilitate the difficult conversations of inclusion in many contexts. The Metropolitan Center’s purpose is not and has never been to lead the Task Force or to initiate, create or institute any changes to District policies or curriculum.
As stated in our public meetings, we want to be clear that:
- No conversation, no adoption and no proposed implementation of any theories or ideologies (critical race theory or otherwise) has occurred
- No changes to curriculum, policy, or practice in the Rye City School District have been adopted
- No changes have been proposed
Our April 23rd letter noted the New York State Board of Regents, the body responsible for the general supervision of all educational activities in the State, was embarking on initiatives related to diversity and inclusion. Just this week, the Board of Regents announced a policy statement that encourages school districts to develop diversity, equity and inclusion policies. The Regents included a list of policies for NYS schools to consider. When asked about concerns around these policies, the Regents stated they are not suggesting a race-based education system in NY nor are they adopting a critical race theory-based policy. Rather, Regent Chancellor Young said, “A growing body of research finds that all students benefit when their schools implement strong diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices, including academic, cognitive, civic, social-emotional and economic benefits.” The Regents urge schools to recognize the important role of inclusion for students. In Rye, that is the work that has started and what we are committed to continue.
There is much work yet to be done. We hope you will join us again on June 15 to hear the Task Force’s initial recommendations and listen to discussion about how to move forward in the work of establishing a more inclusive school community.
The Rye City School Board of Education
Jane Anderson, Jennifer Boyle, Callie Erickson, Vivek Kamath, Chris Repetto, Kelly Smith-Powers, Tom Stein