This is an advisory committee established by the Board of Education with the goal to drive accountability for our schools with respect to the fair and inclusive treatment of all students.
The initial charge of the committee is to:
- review District Curriculum so that it reflects diversity and provides the ability to thrive in a multicultural society
- focus on staff diversity and inclusion
- promote cultural literacy among all staff members
- assure fair and equal treatment of all students
- evaluate the effectiveness of the District effort regarding equity
Valley Central wants all children in our care to feel safe, valued and above all heard. As a district, we must all be committed to identifying and resolving racial differences in the experiences, education, and well-being of our students. Together, we must lead the change that will create lasting equity for all people in our community. We must support efforts that will give all of us the tools we need to combat racism, oppression, and hateful acts in all forms. Our staff and administrators continue to be trained in culturally responsive teaching in order for all of us to better understand and work with all of our children, especially our children of color.
Every student in the Valley Central School District needs to know that they are valued, respected, and loved.
Where We Have Been
In January 2018, the New York State Board of Regents directed the Office of P-12 Education and Higher Education to convene a panel of experts, engage with stakeholders, and develop from the ground up a framework for culturally responsive-sustaining education. A guidance document was drafted and presented to educators in 2019 based on this work, however it is not yet a regulation. The guidance document stated that in order for a district to be considered a school system that is culturally responsive, they must create:
- Students who experience academic success
- Students who are socio-politically conscious and socio-culturally responsive
- Students who have a critical lens through which they challenge inequitable systems of access, power, and privilege.
Culturally responsive-sustaining (CR-S) education is grounded in a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple expressions of diversity (e.g., race, social class, gender, language, nationality, religion, ability) are recognized and regarded as assets for teaching and learning. There are four principles that must be present to consider oneself a culturally responsive school district
- A welcoming and affirming environment
- High expectations and rigorous instruction
- Inclusive curriculum and assessment
- Ongoing professional learning
Social and Emotional Learning Initiative as Part of Cultural Responsiveness
It is also important to remember that prior to the guidance on culturally responsive teaching, Valley Central had devoted time and resources to implementing the mandate surrounding New York State’s Social and Emotional Learning initiative. Valley Central did the following to address the social and emotional wellness requirement, some of which assists in becoming more culturally responsive:
- In 2017-2018 we implemented the Life as Sport Program by Dr. Fenner for K-12. This program was utilized to enhance motivation, set productive goals, sharpen routines, manage stress, and clarify thought processes–and apply them to real-world situations.
- In 2018-2019 we hired a teacher to implement a mental health curriculum in the HS that was written by a team of teachers.
- In 2018 the Middle School became a Safe School Ambassadors school
- In 2019-2020 we began training on the Yale RULER model for grades K-12 so we would have a common language and common methods to deal with social and emotional learning. We had a three-year implementation plan for this program; however, the pandemic has forced us to modify our plans.
Prior to this, the District had participated in the following:
- Anti-bullying programs at the elementary level.
- Walden has implemented a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports program. This program includes resources on cultural responsiveness.
- Responsible Social Media student and parent presentations have taken place throughout the years.
- Student Assistance Counselors are available in all buildings to assist students in working through social and emotional issues as well as to oversee all DASA complaints.
Culturally Responsive Education at Valley Central
When the NYSED Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework came out in 2018 surrounding culturally responsive teaching, Valley Central understood the importance of implementing this guidance and although we were not mandated to implement any initiatives at the time, we hired Dr. Gesso LeBlanc as a consultant for Culturally Inclusive Education. Valley Central wanted to be proactive and knew we would need guidance to implement the framework to the best of our ability.
Dr. Gess LeBlanc is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Counseling Programs within Hunter College’s School of Education. Dr. LeBlanc is a developmental psychologist who has researched how children’s experiences at home, in their classrooms, and within the communities influence their learning and engagement in school. He has written several educational articles and has been recognized by the Spencer Foundation and the American Psychological Association for his work and contribution to the educational field. Dr. LeBlanc began his work with us in the Valley Central Middle School. His initial steps included talking to administrators, teachers, students and families to develop an understanding of our school’s culture and how best to support a culturally responsive environment. Dr. LeBlanc taught us that a culturally responsive classroom includes the following: high academic and behavioral expectations, positive student-teacher relationships, healthy school and community ties, research-based teaching methods and student-focused lessons. During the 2019-2020 school year, the pandemic cut Dr. LeBlanc’s work with the students’ short, however he continued to work with teachers and over the summer he provided professional development to all members of the administration. This professional development included the following:
- A Framework for Racial Equity
- Fostering Belonging and Engagement
- Strategic Plan for Hiring Teachers of Color
The Valley Central School District has extended their commitment to this work and during the 2020-2021 school year, Dr. LeBlanc will be working with the High School as well as the Middle School. During this year’s conference days in September, Dr. LeBlanc presented to the entire High School staff and worked with smaller groups to get necessary feedback. This year he is focusing on increasing student focus groups in order to hear directly from the students.
Prior to our involvement with Dr. LeBlanc Valley Central had implemented other strategies to address cultural inclusiveness. They include the following:
- Cultural Diversity Club at the High School
- Creation of the Race, Identity and Justice Course at the High School
- Mirrors and Windows Professional Development: The phrase “mirrors and windows” was initially introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project. A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that
- offers you a view into someone else’s experience. It is critical to understand that students cannot truly learn about themselves unless they learn about others as well. A respected VC Elementary teacher, Robin McMillan presented this Professional Development to all elementary schools as well as the High School.
- Selection and procurement of racially inclusive literature for all elementary schools.
- An ad hoc committee met virtually over after the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 and the public outcry that resulted, it became obvious to the Valley Central School District that more must be done to ensure the Valley Central School District was dealing with racism head on.
- The BOE modified the VC Dress Code in July 2020 to culturally responsive.
- Appointed an Equity Officer for the District in October 2020.