Colonial PTA diversity committee discusses working with other schools, leveraging Building Bridges program

Colonial PTA diversity committee discusses working with other schools, leveraging Building Bridges program

The diversity committee of the Colonial School Parent-Teacher Association held an open forum June 23 to start planning for action that can be taken over the summer, as well as what it hopes to accomplish next year.

“The goal in this particular moment: Have activities which create a strong culture in the school which respects diversity and inclusion and a culture which doesn’t just promote diversity in the PTA, but incorporates it in the goals of the PTA,” said Marisa Panzani.

The meeting acted as a kind of brainstorming session to come up with ways to open kids’ eyes to the diverse world around them.

One early suggestion was identifying a school in one of neighboring communities to create a partnership with, and sponsor back-to-school supplies for under-resourced schools. However, it was decided that this should not be the first move in the plan of action.

“We want to separate philanthropy and diversity programs to not inadvertently cause the students to start start using them interchangeably,” said Nicolette Jaze.

At a higher level, the PTA decided it was necessary to figure out how to coordinate among different schools what anti-bias programs will look like and what they represent.

“We need to try to coordinate and insure accountability to insure that all schools are engaging and resonate the great diversity.”

“This program should permeate what the PTA does,” said Liza Schaeffer.

Pelham Schools Superintendent Doctor Cheryl Champ said, “It will be beneficial to work together under the district umbrella to fight for a diversity program.”

Outgoing PTA President Mary Hefner said she is eager to get to work and is in need of parents willing to “get their hands dirty… We don’t want to end up where we are today.”

The forum moved on to discussing the possibility of partnering with Building Bridges, which is a parent-created program run in three elementary schools to teach about disabilities. Named after Ruby Bridges, this group would benefit new projects because the Colonial PTA could follow its lead.

Many on the call were in agreement it was necessary to implement student ideas because of the creativity of young minds.

“The thing about fully understanding racism is that conversations must start in home,” said Tonya Wilson, principal of Colonial. “Lots of people don’t understand Black lives. Reading about it may be helpful for students to truly understand the adversity the minority community faces.”

The thing about fully understanding racism is that conversations must start in home.”

— Principal Tonya Wilson

Provided at the meeting were materials to read, watch and listen to in order to tell the story of Black people as humans.

There is a “need to grab low hanging fruit of parents that don’t know how to converse with children about diversity,” said Panzani.