Dear New Rochelle community,
The issues of injustice persist in our country and it is evident we can no longer look away. The homicide of George Floyd reminds us of how deep this moral darkness runs. As communities around the country react, many have chosen to demonstrate, exercising an American's basic right of assembly and free speech. In New Rochelle, students walked from New Rochelle High School to the police station to bring attention to this national matter in their own way. For some it is a new awakening, for others it is a new version of a recurring nightmare.
Many families are sitting around the dinner table struggling to find the words to explain what happened and what it means to our children. In 2017 after the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, many great organization shared tips on how to talk to youth about a traumatic community event. The link is an in-depth framework to help facilitate those difficult conversations.
This is a teachable moment, but the lesson is difficult. Today and for the rest of the week the City School District of New Rochelle will be hosting Healing Circles for students and providing them opportunities to have individual conversations with our clinical staff. Information has been sent to all of our students and we have established a hot line number on our website for anyone needing support. We are also hosting a Community Healing Circle in which members of the community can come together and share their thoughts, fears and concerns as they relate to George Floyd’s murder and the attendant issues it brings into stark focus.
The community conversation will be facilitated on June 5, 2020 at 6 p.m. by David Peters, a professional with experience navigating these very difficult racial issues. It will take place on at this link.
We continue to host a hotline for those in need of immediate assistance to cope with the stress. If you are in distress and in need of immediate support, please call (914) 336-7800.
In our School District, we have spent the better part of a year reviewing data that identifies racial gaps in achievement, suspensions, income, access to programs and our graduation rate across the board. We must do better.
We vow to look at this data and take steps to address it. We have already begun with a pilot equity budget to find ways to close disparities. It is only a beginning. It is part of the budget to be voted on next week.
Make no mistake; education is more than mere instruction. We focus on social and emotional support for our students as well. We have committed to recruiting and hiring teachers that reflect the cultural diversity of this city. We have created the "Solutions to Suspensions Committee” dedicated to looking at the disproportionate rate of suspensions of our African American and Latinx students. We are formulating a plan to address the disproportionate referrals of African American students into special education.
We have more to do more and we are committed to do better. It's simple but daunting: Each individual holds the same value and each of us has the responsibility to care for our neighbor. We must be intentional in our actions each day if we wish to diminish injustices. We will not succeed until they have been eradicated.
I look forward to taking this journey with you in order to get us to a better place.
Dr. Laura Feijóo
Superintendent of Schools
City School District of New Rochelle
The message above is adapted from Dr. Feijóo's address to the community at the June 2, 2020 New Rochelle Board of Education meeting.