Diversity training coming to North Smithfield schools

Diversity training coming to North Smithfield schools

An art installation celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement took shape on Great Road across from the former Tupperware building last week. The display was organized by the group Engage North Smithfield, which encouraged residents to contribute artwork and other items. Several groups, including Engage North Smithfield and the North Smithfield School Department, have engaged in conversations around race and diversity in response to the protests playing out across the country in recent weeks. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Staff at North Smithfield public schools will undergo diversity training as part of their professional development for the 2020-2021 school year, with an emphasis on “equity minded teaching” and “promoting a culture of validating students’ identities and culture.”

According to Supt. Michael St. Jean, the School Department had already planned to focus on diversity next year prior to the events of the past few weeks, but, facing questions amid the national public outcry that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, presented their plans to the School Committee June 16.

School Committee member Paul Jones and President James Lombardi were among those who asked the department’s leadership to address questions of diversity in the district.

“Our town is majority white. That’s not a complaint or a boast, it’s just a fact,” Jones said while explaining why he wanted the topic on the meeting’s agenda.

In October of 2019, according to data compiled by the Rhode Island Department of Education, more than 83 percent of students in the town’s public schools identified as white. Only 16 Black students were enrolled in the district, while 153 students identified as Hispanic/Latino, 29 as Asian and 66 as multi-racial.

That demographic makeup, said St. Jean, was a significant change for he and other staff members who started their careers in other districts.

“I can tell you (Assistant Supt. Clare) Arnold and myself, we all started our careers in urban education where diversity was a fact of life,” he said.

“It was a daily reminder walking in the halls, being in the classrooms. For myself, after 25 years in Pawtucket and Central Falls with a degree in anthropology and teaching English as a Second Language, I have to admit North Smithfield was a very different environment for me.”

In absence of a more diverse student body, St. Jean said the district has to “take that extra step” to bring diversity and understanding to the community when it isn’t already pervasive around them.

According to Arnold, the training will revolve around the book “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond, which all teachers will be required to read over the summer. The book focuses on engaging students of different cultures in the classroom and, according to Arnold, will be used to kick off a series of professional development workshops next year.


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“Teachers will be able to analyze their classroom data by race and ethnicity and then make changes to their curriculum and teaching practices using a culturally responsive teaching and learning framing,” she said.

Arnold discussed the district’s current efforts to address diversity, many of which, she said, aim to create “empathetic citizens” who respect people of different backgrounds. The district’s English curriculums, she said, include units that feature different perspectives and marginalized voices, while its health and elementary school curriculums include social-emotional units that teach empathy and conflict resolution.

Arnold also highlighted several programs within the district, including “Meet in the Middle,” a program spearheaded by Chorus Director Regina McAdam that brings together students from suburban and urban high school music departments.

“When we think about where we are and where we’re going, I think it’s definitely a time of reflection, and it’s a time that we want to come together and just have good conversations about what we’re doing,” said Arnold.

The presentation drew positive reactions from board members as well as one resident who spoke during the meeting. Bobby Bradford told committee members that as a Black citizen of the town, he was happy to hear what Arnold had to say and glad they’d brought the topic to the table.

“I’m extremely excited about what I just heard from Clare, and I really appreciate the town,” he said. “I’m just going to say flat out I’m proud of you guys. As a citizen of the town, I’m very proud.”

Comments

This is a clear biased policy set forth by fanatical socialist! I’m moving from this town because a dark cloud is starting to form and good people will have not part of this brainwashing indoctrination for our children!

Let’s focus on teaching math which is deficient in North Smithfield. I am sure the Patriots will be focused on the offense and defense to translate into wins. Let’s focus on teaching and less about diversity.

School officials better not permit this brainwashing of our youths. Parents will not allow this veil of “sensitivity training” when in fact it is indoctrination!

The direction the North Smithfield School System is planning to travel with students regarding diversity is to be applauded. This is not indoctrination,nor does it take away from the education they now receive. Our children will be able to leave the cocoon of North Smithfield better equipped with an enlightened perspective of the world that awaits them.Most reasonable residents would agree we need more education,not less.
Racism comes in many forms and lives everywhere, It starts with the denial that it doesn’t exist in us,our town,our schools,or our sport activities. I was hoping that a town that already was the focus of shameful national notoriety from a racist position would have grown in sensitivity. They surely would provide some type of statement about the horrific killing of George Floyd. A unified statement that acknowledged the horror and assured the citizens that all those under their watch are focused on a climate that doesn’t condone racism surely will come. The council met few weeks ago,not one public statement about this outrage at the meeting. Sadly, I’m not surprised, the town, though filled with many good people, Is dominated by social racism. It’ s not our police force, I have confidence that they will work to improve their methods to accomplish eradicating any unacceptable treatment of any member of society. It’s a climate that sends a message to look around and be sure you that you are on the right side, otherwise, if you have children, they will be subtly ostracized. If one does not support the programs they endorse, they will activate their socially racist connections to start whisper campaigns to discredit and disarm their perceived threat. If you dare to insinuate a question of impropriety, they will activate their social racist pipeline in attempt to squelch those who question. Is their silence justified by their delusion that it’s not an issue for us because we don’t have the type of demographics associated with George Floyd? The town culture supports social racism.Unfortunately, unlike the murder of George Floyd cameras can’t record social racism, it is woven in our fabric making it invisible. It thrives more easily in small towns like ours, it suffocates us all. Maybe it’s time that we all truly evaluate all our behaviors,it can t do any of us any harm.

First of all, it is not the North Smithfield Town Council’s job to issue a public statement regarding an incident that occurred in Minneapolis. Would you have the same town council issue a statement regarding the dozens of police officers killed in the line of duty so far this year? Next, your inane comment “…the town, though filled with many good people, is dominated by social racism.” This is so patently ridiculous that I’m not even sure YOU believe that, should you take five seconds to reflect. And, your ramble goes on to mention subtle social ostracism, “eradicating any unacceptable treatment of any member of society”, “socially racist racial connection”, “whisper campaigns”, “social racist pipeline” etc…. And you state that “social racism” is invisible. Well, then how did you ferret out this complex system of “invisible” racism? If this post wasn’t so self-evidently farfetched it would be humorous, but it is not humorous. Instead, it is this type of suspension of facts and common sense that tends to separate us instead of bring us together. If you have some specific facts regarding the “invisible” racism or “social racist pipeline”, let’s hear about them so that we can work to eradicate them.

The North Smithfield School Dept is to be applauded for expanding the horizons of students so they can live in a world beyond No Smithfield. You sadly fit the shoe I described in my ramblings, it keeps this town isolated from reality. We can do better.

North Smithfield residents should not fall prey to this propaganda scam that will destroy our children’s future! Towns like ours will fall to socialism and life as we know it will become very bleak for not only North Smithfield but for the country. It starts with indoctrinating our youth and then they keep slowing chipping away our freedoms. Fanatical mindsets like the ones implementing this program in our schools should be stopped by the residents that are paying taxes for this to happen!? Speak up NS before it’s too late!

Unfortunately “Truthseeker22” does not speak for our town because this individual when googled is actually from way out of state. I find it a bit odd that “Truthseeker22” is so concerned for our towns wellbeing when this individual is soooo far away?! I think “Truthseeker should seek in his area of occupancy before implying that ours is so bad and in need. I have lived in this town for over 30 years and to be completely TRUTHFUL... I have seen more compassion and inclusion in this town over the decades I have lived here. People are very kind here in town and our children don’t need your so called “diverse” way of thinking because it’s only a facade of troubling activity to come.

I think that North Smithfield having a Mosque in town is pretty diverse and accepting, the coffee shop on Great Road Red White and Brew is owned and operated and employs those with disabilities, and many of the businesses in North Smithfield are minority owned and run. I can think of half a dozen restaurants alone not to mention mom and pops!

I think we continue to get so hung up on which group is offended this week and we jump on the wagon to go fix it and apologize.

What do the actual statistics show that North Smithfield is insensitive or not diversely accepting? Where are the reports and proof? What happened to people being able to make a choice in what they learn?

Make it an elective and give people a choice of they want to learn it, but stop forcing agendas of socialism in others!

Enough is enough!

In response to “Truthseeker” the reality that you speak of regarding this inequality and biased behavior that apparently is in North Smithfield, where??? Because you said? Maybe someone on Social media from NY said? This is all a scam and smart people see through individuals like yourself.