Outside review of bias in Pelham schools finds need to ‘repair community harms’ and ‘diversify hiring’

Outside+review+of+bias+in+Pelham+schools+finds+need+to+%27repair+community+harms%27+and+%27diversify+hiring%27

Pelham Examiner file photo

Editor’s note: This press release was provided by the Pelham Union Free School District.

At its meeting on Wednesday, October 21, the Pelham Board of Education received the preliminary results of the District-wide equity audit conducted by the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and also explored the results of the recent Thoughtexchange surveys regarding Hybrid Learning.

NYU Equity Audit

Natalie McCabe Zwerger and Cathleen Antoine-Abiala from the NYU Metro Center joined the meeting via Zoom to share the preliminary results of the District’s Equity Audit, which began this summer and is intended to identify disparities in educational opportunities and analyze their relationship to student outcomes.

The audit process included conversations with district leaders, meetings with stakeholder groups such as the Board of Education, administrators and members of the Cultural Competence Committee, and town halls with alumni, current students, families, teachers and staff, and specifically Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) staff.

Additionally the NYU team reviewed documents and materials from District communications, the Cultural Competence Committee, the Strategic Plan and the CampbellJones Cultural Proficiency training as well as student demographic, enrollment, suspension, achievement, AP/honors enrollment data. The audit also included a review of the District’s Code of Conduct, student handbooks, special education identification and classification data, and welcoming policies.

The preliminary report includes five key recommendations for the District.

  • Pelham leadership must methodically work to repair community harms and build a positive relationship and climate amongst leadership, staff, students and the larger Pelham Community.
  • Address race-based patterns of disparity and their intersections with other student identities.
  • Diversify hiring and strengthen retention practices with the intention of growing and fostering affinity spaces available to BIPOC students, staff, and families.
  • Streamline data collection systems to illuminate disparities that – if gone unrecognized – will continue to perpetuate negative narratives about and lived experiences of different student groups.
  • Ensure equity and access to school resources with specific attention to COVID-19-related needs.

Over the next few weeks, the District and Board will continue to review the report and work with the NYU Metro Center team to develop a roadmap for addressing the recommendations.

Thoughtexchange Results

Parents/guardians, students and teachers/staff were surveyed about the Hybrid Learning model via Thoughtexchange as part of the District’s efforts to solicit feedback this school year. In total, more than 1,400 individuals contributed to the exchange producing more than 2,400 unique thoughts.

In presenting the results, Dr. Champ noted several key takeaways from the exchanges:

  • Improve technology issues
  • Develop and communicate clear processes and expectations
  • Provide opportunities for social connection for students
  • Provide continuing teacher training and support
  • Minimize initiatives
  • Protect planning time
  • Attend to student and teacher wellness
  • Consider full virtual teachers for full virtual elementary students
  • Shift to Google Meet
  • Consider ways to increase in person time for youngest learners

In the coming weeks, the District will use the results to fine tune the hybrid model and improve the experience for stakeholders. In response to the feedback, all teachers will soon shift to using Google Meet instead of a livestream for those learning remotely. Additionally the District is planning to use fully virtual teachers for elementary students participating in the fully virtual option to create a more targeted learning experience for those who are not attending in-person instruction. The District will again solicit feedback after implementation of these shifts and make adjustments to the plans as necessary.

The community can view the full Thoughtexchange results and the presentation slides using the following links:

Parent/Guardian Report

Student Report

Presentation Slides

Board of Education Meeting Time Change

The Board of Education also announced that its meetings will now begin at 7:30pm starting with its next meeting on Wednesday, November 4.