Address systemic racism and create a more diverse & inclusive curriculum within NRSD/NRHS

Address systemic racism and create a more diverse & inclusive curriculum within NRSD/NRHS

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Audrey Mazzola started this petition to Superintendent, Nashoba Regional School District Brooke Clenchy and

To the Superintendent, Ms. Brooke Clenchy, the Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Todd Maguire, and the members of the School Committee of Nashoba Regional School District: 

As alumni of NRSD, we are writing to you in light of recent events that have highlighted our nation’s rampant inequalities and injustices. Like many people around the world, we are outraged by the murder of George Floyd, as well as the pattern of racist killings of unarmed Black men and women that continue to occur with terrifying frequency. As a group, we have been reflecting on our understanding of systemic racism, privilege, and inequity and discussing how our K-12 education played a role in shaping our understanding of these issues. In many ways, we received a world-class education at Nashoba; however, during our time as students, the available curriculum and extracurriculars did not adequately address issues of systemic racism. For students of color and other minority communities in the district, formal support systems were also largely absent. Combined with the lack of diversity in the student body and staff, these omissions significantly contributed to our lack of awareness of our own status and privileges as adolescents.

The undersigned reached out to the Nashoba community during the spring of 2020 to solicit reflections on how Nashoba has addressed issues of race and inequality through its curricula, staffing, and policies. The feedback that we received dismayed us. We heard stories of racist incidents in classrooms, limited support for faculty trying to teach lessons on race and injustice, and students of color feeling ostracized and inadequately supported by Nashoba. The majority of alumni expressed some form of the sentiment: “I only learned about issues of systemic racism and social justice when I left Nashoba.” We demand better for the future generations of Nashoba students. 

We read the Superintendent’s June 2nd memo on equity and acceptance and were heartened to hear the district would be examining its curricula to better address racism and inequality. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, far more change is needed at Nashoba. We urge the district to commit to the following actions:

  1. More thoroughly and accurately integrate topics of diversity, inequality, and systemic oppression into the existing curriculum. This is an opportunity for the district to reevaluate its curriculum to better address the diversity of voices and experiences that reflect the world in which we live. Diversity and inclusion must be integrated into all subjects, from the humanities to math and science. In courses such as history and English, in which topics surrounding slavery, racism, and oppression are already discussed, efforts should be made to highlight more non-White texts and perspectives. It is important for teachers to help students understand the rich contributions of people from all backgrounds, and for all students—regardless of the choices they make in course selection or level of their classes—to gain this knowledge and understanding. Through a more diverse curriculum that accurately examines our country’s history in its entirety, students will be better prepared to understand how the policies and events of the past directly link to the systems of oppression that persist to this day.
  2. Commit to recruiting and hiring diverse faculty and staff. Currently, NRSD’s staff includes 10 individuals of color and over 460 White staff members (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2019-2020). This equates to a staff that is nearly 98% White. This does not even represent the local communities of Lancaster, Bolton, and Stow, whose populations range between 6-11% non-White (American Community Survey, 2018), let alone the broader nation. Teachers and administrators serve as role models for students and provide vital perspectives in the classroom. Students in the district, 13% of whom are non-White (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2019-2020), deserve to be represented and exposed to diverse voices. Nashoba has a duty to its students, its community, and society at large to recruit and hire teachers and administrators of color.
  3. Support staff in their journeys to learn and take action against racism. 
    a. Invest in training(s) on implicit bias, equity, and inclusion for NRSD staff. To help teachers create truly antiracist curricula, foster challenging discussions of race in their classrooms, and address racist incidents when they occur, teachers themselves need to be educated in these subjects.
    b. Support teachers who wish to take a more active role in combating racism and prejudice at NRSD. In our interviews, we heard about a “culture of fear” in which staff did not feel supported to, for instance, incorporate antiracist texts into their courses or discipline students making racist remarks. It is vital that NRSD protect—and, moreover, encourage—teachers to take bold action against racism and discrimination. This starts with the highest levels of leadership, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, expressing zero tolerance for hate and discrimination.
  4. Support students of color. Students of color face numerous obstacles in majority White environments such as NRSD. They are often forced to code switch or deal with daily microaggressions. They face acts and words of racism from their classmates and are frequently asked to be the voice for “all people of color.” In addition, educators, often unknowingly, discipline Black students more harshly and more frequently than White students, contributing to educational disparities (Brookings, 2018). For this reason, NRSD needs to put in place strong support systems for students of color. This may take the form of support groups for students of color and their families or policies that analyze the discipline administered to White students versus students of color. 

While we acknowledge we are not educators or education policy experts, we spent many hours researching best practices and interviewing alumni, faculty, staff, and current students. We expect NRSD to build upon the above actions to become a leader in inclusive and antiracist education. Nashoba has a mission to create “positive contributors to the global community.” This mission cannot be realized without committing fully to inclusion, equity, and antiracism. 

We, the undersigned, would like to offer ourselves as collaborators and partners as NRSD embarks on this change. Please reach out to us if we can be of further help thinking through these issues or finding resources. We are committed to Nashoba’s past, current, and future generations of students and will help in any way we can.

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Kate Bedding, Class of 2010,
Robert Cohen, Class of 2010,
Audrey Mazzola, Class of 2010,
Jennifer Pisano, Class of 2010.

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