How is the North Salem CSD doing when it comes to equity? A new report will shed light.

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By Sarah Gayden and Fran Havard

Last June, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and resulting protests nationwide, the North Salem Central School District (NSCSD) Board of Education issued a promise of action. The declaration was intended to provide the District’s faculty, staff and students with a foundation to identify, discuss and help eradicate racial bias and inequalities. Since then, the District has worked with an outside group to conduct a micro-audit to understand where the District is now and what steps it needs to take next in order to fulfill its promise of action.

The Board’s promise included participation and education in community-based efforts that promote equity and tolerance, allocating resources to allow faculty and staff to participate in educational community efforts and creating an ad hoc board committee comprised of various community members to examine institutional bias in curriculum, instruction and behavior and to make recommendations for improvement.

The micro-audit was conducted by the Center for Strategic Solutions (CSS), part of New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. The group works with schools to implement strategies that close equity gaps and lead to the improvement of student outcomes. Board President Deborah D’Agostino said, “the micro-audit is intended to help us focus our attention where it is needed.”

One area of focus may be on welcoming more diverse populations. NSCSD Director of Pupil Personnel Services Dr. Adam VanDerStuyf said, “when you look at our demographics, they have shifted over the past couple of years. Our goal and intention with this work, as those demographics shift, is to be mindful in welcoming everyone who lives in the community and sends their kids to the school.” His hope for the District’s equity work, which he emphasized is “all of our work,” is that “everybody feels a welcomed member of the North Salem community as well as the community at large. Everyone’s voice and experience is going to help us have that sense of equity and access for all.”

In an effort to capture a range of voices, Natalie Zwerer and Nakeeba Wauchope from the CSS facilitated conversations among four stakeholder groups within the District: students, faculty/staff, parents/community and BIPOC (Black/indigenous/people of color) community members. These conversations provided qualitative data that, when combined with quantitative data such as test scores, disciplinary actions and referrals to the Committee for Special Education, were used to complete the micro-audit. Superintendent Freeston, VanDerStuyf, D’Agostino and Board member Brandy Keenan held checkpoint meetings throughout the data gathering stage to finalize the audit for presentation on February 24.

D’Agostino said that the February 24 presentation is intended to give the Board an opportunity to hear findings from the micro-audit and to ask questions. “Diversity and equity is such a complex topic that it seemed a good place to allow plenty of time for discussion,” she said.

“We will stream and archive the meeting but will not have a public comment period. This is the Board's opportunity to ask questions.” D'Agostino did not elaborate on how the community would be involved in the process moving forward.

The Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7:30PM on Wednesday, February 24, via Zoom.

This article will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

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