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Letter: Special Amity Board Meeting Highlights a Lack of Transparency

On Monday October, 24th there was a Special Board meeting at Amity High School for the purpose of voting on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ‘mission’ statement, a vote that board members were ill equipped to take due to a lack of transparency by the administration.

Three different Board members complained to the Superintendent about not receiving information in a timely fashion. Not being able to make decisions without all the information seemed to be a recurring theme. One Board member pointed out how she had asked the Superintendent repeatedly for an overview of DEI initiatives and never got an answer. Another Board member was distressed by the lack of transparency and how information was not distributed in a timely fashion for board members to be able to make decisions.

At this meeting a diverse group of 13 speakers—consisting of current parents, past parents, students, alumni, and community members—all spoke against the use of DEI in the curriculum. They all spoke from varying perspectives as to why using DEI as a Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum was a poor choice that emphasizes differences rather than commonalities creating more rather than less racism. The board minutes that were circulated after the meeting described each public comment in vague and neutral terms, obscuring the facts and true sentiments expressed by members of the community.

The proposed DEI mission statement is lacking in transparency. It uses vague statements that attempt to incorporate DEI concepts without defining what those concepts mean.  There has been little information shared as to the impact of DEI on curriculum.  For example does ‘Equity’ mean that the goal is to make sure that all students end up with the same outcome, regardless of individual potential, skills, and efforts? Shouldn’t we be supporting “equal opportunity” rather than “Equity”? Shouldn’t we as parents, teachers, and students be having that discussion with the administration rather than having policy dictated?

Policy Violations: A review of Board minutes/packets of all meetings since December 2018 did not include any evidence of the DEI curriculum being presented to or approved by the board. According to policy P9132.3, “It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to establish and approve curricula for the District.”  Failure to do so is a violation of school policy. The Superintendent brought in consultants to train staff and faculty on DEI from April 2019 through May 2022 at a cost of $98,319.64, beginning the implementation of DEI without board approval. The administration then hired a DEI coach, again without board approval of DEI curriculum.

As the board began their discussion that was going to lead to a vote on accepting or modifying this draft document, the fire alarm bell went off and everyone had to leave the school.

This lack of transparency by the administration to both the Amity Board of Education and to the community at large does not serve us well and needs to change.

By Dr. Reena Seltzer

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