George Floyd March.webp

Keep DEI at NCPS

This past July, the New Canaan Board of Education met to review the school district's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Goals that were formed following a groundswell of community input in the summer of 2020, and said it would present revised wording at the meeting held on August 22nd.

 

Disappointingly, during the August 22nd non-televised workshop held prior to the Board of Education meeting and during the Board meeting itself, some members of the Board sought to strip DEI from the 2022 - 2023 school year goals outright. 

We invite you to read the following letters and watch the recording of the meeting, which includes both public comment from the community as well as the Board's discussion of its goals. Public comment takes place at minute mark 00:03:47 and 1:53:00, and the Board discusses the DEI goals at minute mark 1:03:00.

We encourage you to read and sign this petition signed by hundreds of community members imploring the Board to keep DEI in its goals.

Finally, you can make your voice heard by writing to the Board of Education and attending the next meeting. The BOE is keeping track of numbers for and against DEI.  Make sure they hear your voices! Send in your comments to ncpsboemembers@ncps-k12.org and bryan.luizzi@ncps-k12.org. Attend next Wednesday's meeting on September 7th in the Wagner Room at the High School at 7 pm.

DEI NC BOE Posts.png

Letter to BOE

Signed by Community Members ahead of August 22nd Meeting

Micaela Porta, who has raised two children in the New Canaan school system, read a letter signed by 130 parents, grandparents, students, alumni, and taxpayers. Watch Micaela read the letter here; her testimony begins at minute mark 00:03:48.

Letter to BOE

by Alyssa MacKenzie

Editor,

 

I cannot overemphasize how concerning it is to see the revised goals for the 2022-2023 school year stripped of DEI work and with no mention of the words “diversity”, “equity”, nor “inclusion” once in the revision despite widespread support of these very initiatives from the community the Board of Education are elected and tasked to represent. 

 

Personally and as just one example, I am one of many disabled NCPS alumni who could have had a much more supportive and enriching experience had DEI modalities been implemented. In their shirking of duty at Monday’s meeting, the BOE instead further harmed current disabled students as well as their nondisabled peers who will miss out on the very vibrant disability education that fosters understanding, acceptance, and true and full inclusion.

 

There is a through line from the need for robust mental health support in our schools to the need to seek DEI expertise, if not hire a coordinator outright; the same experiences and issues children are facing that require deeper support are experiences and issues represented through DEI work. 

 

How can we explain to our children that we fear and reject experts, that there are some fields from which we’ve gained all potential knowledge despite no formal education? What does this teach them of the quest of academic excellence, of lifelong learning and betterment? How can we ask and expect them to be fearless learners despite the hypocrisy of the adults whose choices have so much influence in shaping their worldview?

 

Alyssa MacKenzie

DEI NC BOE Posts (1).png
Ethan Niang A.png

Testimony at BOE Meeting

Ethan Niang

Hear the rest of NCPS alum Ethan's public testimonies by clicking here and viewing the video at 00:05:46 and 01:56:40.

Ethan Niang B.png

Letter to BOE

Sheri & Brian West

Board of Education, 

 

Imagine a world where everyone is able to build authentic bridges to people whose lives are different from their own. Imagine a world where differences in race, religion, gender, sexuality, and abilities disappear in the background. Imagine a world marked by respect, trust and understanding. 

 

This world will require intention and work. It must begin by naming the intention: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As you know, the DEI district goal was carefully and intentionally drafted, in response to feedback that we must do more as a district to create a welcoming space for all. The goal is essential because schools with DEI priorities are proven to produce students with cultural awareness and critical thinking. “Students learn and enrich their abilities to think critically and creatively as they engage in conversations across difference, especially when all learners' abilities and attributes should and are embraced.” (Edutopia) 

 

I urge you not to back away from the DEI language because it has become “politicized”. It’s true that DEI is a term that is misunderstood by many, but I encourage you to dig in to better understand the importance of it. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that every Board member read Inclusion Revolution by Daisy Auger-Domínguez or How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive by Jennifer Brown or listen to Brave Discussions: DEI & Belonging by TED@Work. 

 

This would also be an excellent topic to leverage an expert. Truly excellent Boards leverage experts when making tough decisions on subjects where they lack expertise. In the past, we have relied upon experts often; from safely re-opening our schools during the pandemic to transportation routing to social emotional intelligence. There are many DEI experts in the local community, including the social justice librarians at the New Canaan Library, that you may access. 

 

Finally, rather than think of DEI as a “distraction,” I urge you to think about the importance of this work in the context of the world we live in. New Canaan Public Schools has always shined a light on what’s possible in public education, and now, we have the opportunity to show what’s possible in creating a truly welcoming school community with a culture of respect, trust and understanding. This, in fact, may be the most important work of all. 

 

Sheri and Brian West

Sheri West A.png
Sheri West B.png
Sheri West C.png
Sara Bakker.png

Petition Signature

Sara Bakker

"For kids to learn and achieve, they have to feel safe and heard. The way we can do that as adults is to make sure our language around goals speaks directly to their Diversity, right to Equity, and the way we value Inclusion. Make New Canaan a great place to learn and achieve."

Letter to the Editor

State Rep Lucy Dathan

Dear Editor,

 

I am appalled and saddened that our Board of Education eliminated the words “Diversity”, “Equity”, and “Inclusion” or “DEI” from its stated goals for this school year.

 

How do these Board members square the fact that nearly every major business across the globe, like J&J, Mastercard, Accenture and Coke, is embracing these words and their spirit, along with many schools (both public and private) across the nation?  What lessons are we teaching our children – shouldn’t our schools be preparing them for the realities of the world outside? And, what are we saying to the hundreds of new residents that have moved into our community? The implications are shocking.

 

NCPS is currently the top school district in the state (and rated #26 in the nation). We achieve A+ in every category apart from Diversity (C-), in which we lag behind our neighboring districts of Westport, Wilton, Greenwich, and Ridgefield. We are tied with Darien.

 

It also saddened me that certain Board members were not prepared to listen to the insight of professional DEI advisors, instead relying on their own opinions, values, and emotions. We hire the best and the brightest to teach our children, and some of the highest educated and experienced as administrators.  We relied on experts to help our schools safely re-open during the pandemic and keep the children in class. What expertise do these Board members have in this area? Upon what broad sets of data and evidence do they base their opinions? Are we going to accept that such a drastic and short-sighted statement about our community can be made solely on the basis that certain people “feel uncomfortable”, or because the topic is “too political”? What is the next draconian measure on their agenda? Are they going to suggest we ban books from school libraries if they are not “in sync” with their personal ideologies?

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion compared to what?

Homogeneity, uniformity, sameness.

Unfairness, accommodation of special interest.

Exclusion, marginalization, segregation.

 

The ultimate job of the Board of Education is to prepare New Canaan’s children for their futures and the reality is, this future is one where diversity is celebrated. To sweep this reality under the rug in favor of their personal ideologies is to fail New Canaan’s children.  If you agree, I encourage you to let the BOE know: ncpsboemembers@ncps-k12.org . We need to put aside feelings of discomfort and put the needs of our students and community first. 

 

Lucy Dathan

State Representative, District 142

Lucy Dathan A.png
Lucy Dathan B.png
Sara Bakker.png

Testimony at BOE Meeting

Emmi Goldenberg

We are living in a town where 88% of the population is white. Diversity, equity and inclusion is essential in providing cultural awareness and helping students to understand how to respect and appreciate all aspects of our differences, but more importantly, to help the 12% feel safe, seen, and valued.

 

I am appalled and saddened that my sisters attend schools - some of the best in the state - where their Board of Education has such little regard for DEI. After attending a public meeting and witnessing a small clip of the Board of Education’s attitude and opinion of DEI, as a mixed-race individual, I am compelled to express how vital expert advice will be in effectively implementing this into the schools. Denying children the critical opportunity to experience and understand DEI in everyday life will only hinder their social and emotional ability as they progress through the school systems, college and beyond. (Martinez)

 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is something to be celebrated.

Petition Signature

Steven Francolla

I work at Amazon. Every employee of the business completes and maintains DEI training. We are one of the most inclusive companies in the world and are the second largest company in the world in terms of revenue partly because programs like this teach us how to prioritize the people around us. On that basis, excluding DEI education is a step backward and negatively impacts our job as parents of setting our children up for success.

Steven Francolla.png
Abigail Skidmore.png

Petition Signature

Abigail Skidmore

Education is the #1 factor in our decision to live in New Canaan. The expertise and deep research that informed decision-making and direction-setting for our schools in the past should remain in place to ensure we maintain our excellent educational system and rankings. There should be no place for political activism in these decisions.

Petition Signature

Martha Harper

Endless studies show children learn best when they feel safe and valued in the school environment. Recognizing the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and including it in our goals, is an important step in building that environment for our children. This is not a political issue. This is an educational issue.

Martha Harper.png
Jenn Hladick A.png

Testimony at Meeting

Jenn Hladick

Hear the rest of NCPS parent Jenn Hladick's testimony (00:10:19 and 2:05:10) by clicking here.

Jenn Hladick B.png

Testimony at Meeting

Fatou Niang

Listen to the entirety of NCPS Parent, and Founder and President of S.T.A.R., Fatou Niang's testimony by clicking here. (Minute mark 00:18:46 and 01:53:00.)

Fatou Niang A.png
Fatou Niang B.png
Fatou Niang C.png
Valentina Zamora A.png

Testimony at Meeting

Valentina Zamora

Check out the entirety of 2021 NCPS Alum Valentina Zamora's testimony by clicking here. (Minute mark 00:08:20.)

Valentina Zamora B.png
Valentina Zamora C.png

Testimony at Meeting

Lauren Connolly Nussbaum

Listen to NCPS Parent Lauren Connolly Nussbaum's testimony in its entirety by clicking here. (Minute mark 00:15:50 and 02:01:40)

Lauren Connolly Nussbaum B.png
Lauren Connolly Nussbaum B.png
Lauren Connolly Nussbaum C.png
Gretchen Meyer Russell A.png

Letter to the Editor

Gretchen Meyer Russell

Read Gretchen Meyer Russell's full letter to the editor on NewCanaanite.com.

Letter to the Editor

Skip Hobbs

Read Skip Hobbs's full letter to the editor in the New Canaanite by clicking here.

Skip Hobbs A.png
Skip Hobbs B.png