Dear Students, Parent and Guardians, and Staff Members,
Over the last few years, we have seen the issue of racism become a central issue on the national landscape. We have seen white nationalists take to the streets of Charlottesville resulting in mayhem and violence. We have seen the protests in response to the loss of life of our black citizens by law enforcement in several cities and vigilante domestic terrorists in a suburban Georgia neighborhood. We have seen a recognition and awareness of institutional bias that impacts many systems including education, health care, housing, and employment. North Adams Public Schools does not exist in a vacuum outside of these tumultuous times and the growing need in the education community to address the issues of civil discourse, equity, and inclusion has impacted our schools.
North Adams Public Schools began the work of addressing racism and institutional bias in 2018-2019 with the engagement of Multicultural Bridge in the national Not In Our Schools with a pledge for a safe and inclusive environment. In 2020, we began working with Dr. Tracey Benson, author of Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Exploring Race and Racism. The district leadership team engaged in a year-long process of reflection, data analysis, and equity learning walkthroughs. Drury High School received training and implemented the student-led World of Difference program in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Federation of Berkshire County, and the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable. Our schools have incorporated Second Step and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to teach students about themselves and how to interact with each other in positive and prosocial ways. The investment of time and resources in these evidence and research based approaches has been universally supported as an investment in the college and career readiness preparation of our students entering an increasingly diverse world.
With the onset of the pandemic associated with COVID-19, the district worked diligently to provide equitable access to technology resources and to address food insecurity for the children of North Adams. This past year we have initiated a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) committee with representatives from each school to evaluate the occurrence of bias, to address the need to diversify our workforce, and to lead the process of assessment of our student body regarding issues of racism, equity, and inclusion. We do not do this work in isolation and value our partnerships with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Massachusetts School Administrators Association, and Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
These efforts cannot be stand-alone events, but ongoing strategic goals and that is why we have developed and implemented a strategic objective and initiative in our district improvement plan specific to the work of creating an equitable educational environment for all students.
- Our district will ensure a safe environment in which to explore the issues of racism and equity and its social, emotional, academic and economic impacts.
- We will work within the school and overall community to define equity and what it means to have equitable access to learning and services for North Adams Public Schools.
North Adams Public Schools continues to live by our mission statement to Empower ALL Learners and our Equal Education Opportunities Act (EEOA) statement:
“The (School) Committee's policy of nondiscrimination will extend to students, staff, the general public, and individuals with whom it does business; No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town or in obtaining the advantages, privileges, and courses of study of such public school on account of age, race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or homelessness.”
Any incident of reported racism will be addressed by administration, and any student witnessing an act of racism must be encouraged to report it to administration or a member of the staff. We do not and will not condone violence or harassment in response to a perceived or alleged statement or action deemed to be personally offensive. Our focus must always be to educate while allowing for differences in perspective; however, it is in the best interests of our students to understand the boundaries of what is opinion and what is perpetuating bias. As we continue to work toward creating an anti-racist organization, North Adams Public Schools does embrace the idea of celebrating the rich history and contributions by people of color throughout February, but we also recognize that achieving our goals requires a constant focus on equity throughout all that we do.
To quote poet Amanda Gorman, “A new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if we are only brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” North Adams Public Schools strive to be the light.
Dr. Barbara Malkas