12 Steps to Help Students Thrive

The following Op-Ed published in the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper was submitted by Pittsford Speak Out Against Racism parent leaders to address all Pittsford Central School District (PCSD) Administrative Leaders and the Pittsford Schools Board of Education.

In response to ongoing racist incidents in Pittsford schools, we as one PCSD parent community stand wholeheartedly with our black families and families of color who expressed the pain and impact of explicit and institutional racism before the Board of Education and Superintendent Michael Pero. This is a rally cry for our entire community - families, students, teachers, staff, and administrators - to demand that civil rights be upheld for every child in this District, and to ensure equitable, hate-free, culturally responsive schools for all.

ALL children benefit from an equitable environment. Yet, the District has allowed fear, avoidance of embarrassment, politics, and white privilege to influence their response to the trauma of racism inflicted on our children.

We love our schools, and respect and honor our dedicated teachers. We know you care. We see you. We hear your plea to further develop your capacity for cultural responsiveness so all children thrive - not just survive - in schools.

We elected Pittsford Board of Education leadership to set policy that prioritizes student safety and prepares teachers accordingly. The Superintendent and District leadership must administer that policy. We acknowledge the District’s May 8 email pledging action; we expect an explicit outline of that equity work in the District budget.

Finally, we present a public call to action to Superintendent Pero and the Board over the next six months to:

  1. With broad stakeholder consensus, hire a permanent Inclusivity expert to guide and implement policies addressing racism District-wide.
  2. Create and publicly share a mandatory, restorative, educational, and disciplinary policy for racial aggression enforced on school grounds, buses, and during school-related activities.
  3. Generally inform PCSD parents/staff of all incidents of racial aggression within one week of the occurrence. Include educational resources & encourage family discussions.
  4. Commit to mandatory, intensive, & comprehensive implicit bias & anti-racism education for all adults employed by/volunteering at PCSD.
  5. Provide annual DASA refresher trainings for teachers/administrators, and information sessions for families.
  6. Help students create affinity groups at school, including but not limited to Black Student Unions.
  7. Transparently review/revise PCSD Code of Conduct with student/parent voice.
  8. Audit & begin to update curriculum ensuring historical accuracy, global contributions, perspective, & context for all races.
  9. Build support for and actively diversify teaching staff and administrative leadership using radical, intentional, and creative recruitment approaches for short/long-term employment.
  10. Host regular restorative and listening circles with PCSD families; implement a ”community engagement platform” for community/employee feedback.
  11. Place independent Diversity and Inclusion ombudsmen in each school.
  12. Track progress on all of the above on a public online dashboard & document strategies/resources used.

We call the community to join us in supporting the District to make these transformative changes to PCSD culture. After six months, our group will evaluate progress & recommend further action.

The persistence of racism and hate in our schools causes daily, inexcusable harm to our students and community. It’s time to fulfill PCSD’s commitment to excellence and recognize the importance and urgency to make this change.