Pelham school district hires NYU center to help end systemic racism


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the costs of the program starting in the fourth paragraph.

The Pelham Union Free School District has hired the New York University Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools to study racial equity and aid the district in ending systemic racism.

The work begins this summer with an audit of district policies, practices and student outcomes, including strategic plan goals, the code of conduct, disciplinary practices, academic programming and other critical areas, according to an emailed letter from the district.

“This work will take time and it will be extremely difficult, however we believe this partnership marks a strong step in building greater cultural competence for our district and supporting a positive and inclusive school environment for all students,” said Pelham Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ in the email.

The total cost of the NYU center’s work this summer will be $10,725, which includes $7,500 for the audit of policies and outcomes and the three upcoming virtual forums, $2,100 for training the administrative team and professional development for teachers at $1,125, said Alex Wolff, public information officer for the district.

The NYU group is contracted through BOCES, which means that the district anticipates getting about 50% of the costs back in state aid, he said.

“We do anticipate contracting with NYU for additional work during the school year, including additional training for administrators, teachers, student equity leaders etc.,” Wolff said. “However the scope (and price) of that work is not finalized at this time as it will be determined by the results of the audit.”

A spokesman for Pelham United, which co-sponsored the Pelham Unity Rally last month that called for increasing racial awareness and education in the Pelham schools, said the group would discuss its reaction to the new program at its next meeting.

Members of the NYU team will facilitate three virtual forums this summer:

  • Alumni: July 22 at 7 p.m. Register
  • Rising secondary students: July 30 at 7 p.m. Register
  • Parents/guardians: August 11 at 7 p.m. | Register

“We believe that this partnership with a leading organization in the field of equity, specifically geared toward K-12 schools, will help the district identify and prioritize action steps,” said Champ. “In the coming school year, we will continue to work with the organization to build our capacity to address issues of equity.”

Other activities planned as part of the project:

  • Providing professional training to all staff to build cultural and racial literacy and an understanding of systemic racism, implicit bias, cultural responsiveness and humanizing education.
  • Working with groups of middle and high school students to capture lived experiences and elevate student voice to help improve school climate.
  • Building a “train the trainer” model to ensure that this work becomes a systemic part of the Pelham Public Schools culture.

The NYU Steinhardt Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools can be visited here.