Tiger Tracks MUFSD's Monthly e-news: a special edition for February's black history month

February, 2021

Mamaroneck Public Schools Working Toward Equity in Education

"Since a child, my village always taught me that Black History IS American History. Yet, until our world embraces anti-racist policies to achieve cultural pluralism, we must continue to celebrate and use February as a call to action!" - April Francis Taylor, MUFSD Equity Team

What equity and anti-racist initiatives have been in place this year?

How are the schools celebrating Black History Month?

Working alongside the District Equity Team, our six Mamaroneck schools share in their collective commitment to equity, inclusion and anti-racist initiatives. During this month of February, Black History Month, we celebrate and honor African American contributions to the nation and our community and put the "Spotlight on Equity", providing some examples of work begin done this school year with faculty and students across all of our schools. While each school has injected its own unique style, focus remains on three priority areas:

  • Professional Learning (What are staff members doing to unpack their own social identities and enhance their equity practices? In addition to faculty meetings devoted to racial equity work and each school having its own equity team, professional learning across the schools has been made possible by the set-up of Google Classrooms containing relevant and pertinent time-sensitive resources, including book titles, podcasts, videos, articles, and suggested websites)
  • Curricular (What anti-racist student learning initiatives are being implemented this school year in social studies? In English?)
  • Culture/Student Engagement (How is the school environment set up to foster equity for all students?)
"There are many signs in Mamaroneck that this important work is taking deep roots and making a difference, rather than just a checking of the boxes. This work is becoming part of the fabric of our schools, and Black History Month (similarly to Hispanic Heritage Month in November) is one of many times throughout the year where we can highlight some of this work." - Central School Principal Joanne Hindley
In addition to studying Black excellence around the globe, our schools are looking at excellence in our own Larchmont-Mamaroneck community and studying black history locally, communicating and connecting with local historians.

At Our Elementary Schools

As was done for Hispanic Heritage Month in November, several of our elementary schools are featuring daily morning announcements this month that include quotes from famous African Americans. Additionally, all four elementary schools have infused into their classroom libraries an expanded collection of books that includes the many contributions of famous African Americans, and the work of important African Americans is being highlighted through read alouds and videos.

Above: Classroom Library Infusion Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism, and Resistance
”To truly make a difference and for this work to have an impact on our young students and their families, we believe this is not a conversation that happens just during the month of February. From the very first day of school each classroom works on building a respectful, kind and caring community - a space where all learners feel validated, where every voice is heard. By the time we get to February, our first graders have had 5 months of deep conversations rooted in beliefs of equity and kindness for all." - Central School 3rd Grade Team

A sampling of other elementary school initiatives include the following:

  • Music teachers are highlighting famous musical artists of color during the month of February and sharing examples of music styles rooted in Black History.
  • Art teachers have expanded curriculum to include more diverse artists such as Faith Ringgold, Sipho Mabona, Alma Thomas, Kimmy Cantrell, and Deborah Roberts
  • At Mamaroneck Ave. School, staff is working hard to understand and unpack Sharon Ravitch's work on Flux Pedagogy and Leadership in anticipation of her upcoming visits with MAS in February and March, 2021. Specifically, faculty has been studying the work Sharon's examination of the concepts of Self Care and Radical Self Care. Self-Care is attending to one's health, eating right, going to sleep at a reasonable hour, spending time in nature, being in the moment with loved ones, exercising, cooking, baking, etc. Radical Self-Care is radical because it is based on critical theory. Critical theories (like Critical Race Theory) allow us to critique and interrogate systems, structures, policies, and relationships oppressive to BIPOC, yet simultaneously exist to serve and advance White and Western ways of thinking and being.
  • Murray Ave. School will welcome Leilani Yizar to lead a series of virtual sessions for all students, K-5, in a celebration of local Black history. Students will engage in learning about local historical figures and landmarks, and will create and piece together a community Adinkra Quilt, which will be displayed in the hallways of Murray.
  • Chatsworth Ave. School has initiated a Book of the Month project, where students are introduced to high quality picture books starring diverse BIPOC characters and human differences (race, culture concepts) are celebrated in everyday situations. The goal is to build a foundation of curiosity, knowledge and respect for differences so that students view the lives of BIPOC children beyond the lens of struggle. Students develop Adobe Spark presentations to make their thinking visible.
Above: Titles read and studied so far this year for Chatsworth Ave. School's Book of the Month project
The entire hallway connecting two buildings at Mamaroneck Ave. School highlights a variety of Black Americans with pictures and captions in English and Spanish

At Hommocks Middle School

This year, in addition to the work being done by the Hommocks Equity Team to align curriculum with the District Equity team goals, the Hommocks Advisory period and weekly Open Space chats offered by the new Director of Student Life Keila Reyes are providing many opportunities for all students -- including hybrid and remote students -- to engage in open and honest conversations around race and anti-racism. Black History Month is being honored by highlighting stories, experiences and achievements of Americans of African descent and celebrating Black art and culture and the Civil Rights Movement, with special activities to prompt meaningful conversations among students and teachers. Daily morning announcements are recognizing important Black figures, and student groups such as My Brother's/ Sister's Keeper and Diversity Leaders are engaging in relevant discussions on not just Black History but recent and current events that are impacting marginalized groups today.

Students at Hommocks are studying Black excellence and discussing why we celebrate Black History Month
The Hommocks Commons area is full of bulletin boards recognizing important Black figures
During February, Hommocks daily announcements and posters on display highlight experiences and achievements of Americans of African descent and celebrate Black art, culture and the Civil Rights Movement

At Mamaroneck High School

The previously titled Multicultural Club has re-envisioned itself to become known as the Multicultural Student Union. During February's Black History Month, the student-run group has planned numerous activities, including producing and displaying large, oversized posters throughout the hallways at MHS.

While the ongoing work at the high school (much of it outlined on the District website) is difficult to capture in a newsletter, we continue to see the impact of the high school's collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves in its second year of infiltration into our 9th grade social studies and English classes. Both teachers and students at Mamaroneck High School have demonstrated an organic passion for learning, growth and tough conversations around race. Last school year, prior to the pandemic, teachers studied racism through numerous professional learning opportunities and in-person book groups. This year, a large percentage of teachers have continued this work on their own, many of them enrolling in online courses and reading a vast array of rich texts. Overall, there is a heightened sense of awareness among teachers of the books they have on their shelves, the sources they are using to teach and the narratives they are telling.

Currently, MHS English Teacher Sarah Silverman is leading a group of 31 staff members from across the District in SEED, monthly guided conversation circles & facilitative learning with the goal of driving personal, classroom, and organizational change toward social justice and equity. This includes personal reflection and testimony, listening to others' voices, and learning experientially and collectively, in the context of each participant’s intersecting identities: race, gender, social class, and other ways we define ourselves and experience the world. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

Another English teacher, MaryBeth Jordan, has had an impact on students in getting them to think about, write about and talk about positive forces in our society during this very dark time. Taking what she learned from The New York Times Teaching Project, which she was selected to be a part of among 60 secondary school teachers from around the country. Ms. Jordan led students through a "Changemakers" unit of study looking at how they can be agents of change. Click here and here to view. They read a series of profiles in The New York Times, including some about ordinary people in the South Bronx who helped their neighbors in the early days of the global pandemic, and read and watched Changemaker stories on the Ashoka website, a global non-profit organization that promotes social entrepreneurship. They also developed a case study of a Changemaker close to home: Kayla Yan, Mamaroneck High School senior, who launched the Black Lives Matter protest here in Mamaroneck last June. "We studied not only how to write a profile, but how to choose a subject, pin down an interview, conduct that interview, and then get corroborating evidence from other people who know the subject or the good they do," Ms. Jordan said. "Our subjects ranged from high school students to grandparents doing good work here in our schools, in our community, and in our armed services. They're advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, confronting food insecurity, facing climate change head on, or getting out the vote!"

Large Black History Month posters produced by the Multicultural Student Union are on display throughout MHS

Racial Equity Journey is Ongoing

The Mamaroneck School District's racial equity journey is constant and ongoing. It requires a culture of learning, reflecting and respect; only then can our students and staff begin to have an understanding of people most marginalized by racist policies and institutions.

Across the District: What Our Teachers are Reading

What books are our teachers finding valuable in deepening their equity work? Here is just a sampling of the many resources, book titles and articles faculty is engaging in:

  • Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
  • We Got This, by Cornelius Minor
  • Stamped, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
  • Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
  • This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell
  • Triggers, by David Richo (part of Flux)
  • Long Time Coming, by Michael Eric Dyson
  • Not Light But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, by Matthew R. Kay
  • Being the Change, by Sara K. Ahmed
  • I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown
  • NY State's Culturally Responsive Sustaining Framework
  • Reconsider Columbus Day
  • Jacqueline Woodson on Africa, America and Slavery’s Fierce Undertow
  • Racial Literacy, by Howard Stevenson
  • Ted Talk: The Danger of a Single Story, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Prioritizing Mindsets: What New York State’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework Gets Right, by Pamela D'Andrea Martinez and Evan M. Johsnton
  • The Educator´s Playbook: Where we are now: Flux Pedagogy by Sharon M. Ravitch
  • Why Teaching Through a Crisis Requires a Radical New Mindset Radical New Mindset (also part of Flux, by Sharon M. Ravitch)
Above: A small sampling of our Mamaroneck School District staff reading picks and books around which our staff members are convening virtually with groups to discuss