Conversations are just the start: The Moorestown school district needs to take action to address issues of racial inequity.
That was the sentiment echoed at Tuesday night’s virtual board of education meeting. Board President Sandra Alberti opened the session by explaining that the board intends to examine the district’s policies, practices and curriculum as they relate to issues of race. She said the board is committed to listening and learning about how it can provide safe and equitable access to education for all students in the district.
“Racism is a systemic issue, and we intend to address it systemically,” Alberti said.
Parent Colette McLean-Lamidi stressed accountability and noted the meeting was not the first time the district was asked to address concerns about racism. Her hope is that the district will make the topic a priority moving forward.
“My expectations are that the learning my daughter experiences will also be representative of who she is, as a person, along with other students of color in this community,” McLean-Lamidi said.
She said there appears to be a lack of diversity in hiring and she wondered what the district is doing to recruit, hire and retain a diverse array of teachers. McLean-Lamidi added that she convinced her husband to move to Moorestown because she was under the impression the town has a strong school system, but she insisted good education is about more than grades and pathways to higher education.
“I will be holding you accountable,” McLean-Lamidi said to board members.
Fellow Moorestown parent Pastor Jonathan Leath discussed the importance of diversity among decision makers.
“We need to get black voices on our school board,” he said. “We need to get black voices on our administrative level, because when you’re making decisions, it’s very hard to make those decisions without having experienced other ethnicities, other cultures, other ways of thinking.”
Leath also questioned how the district could broach issues of social isolation. At a recent Moorestown protest, he noted, African American students shared their experiences of feeling socially isolated from their Moorestown classmates. Leath’s daughter is a 2020 graduate and he has three sons following in her footsteps. He wondered what the district will do to ensure his sons and other students do not feel socially isolated.
Leath is concerned that when students aren’t receiving equal social development, they won’t feel comfortable joining clubs, taking on leadership positions or speaking up in class.
Moorestown High School teacher Lisa Trapani said following last week’s protest, she met with a group of former students who were interested in sharing their thoughts about Moorestown’s curriculum. The students will continue the conversation and meet with the district’s social-emotional learning committee.
Trapani said the same committee also met to develop a plan for the entirety of the school year ahead, brainstorming different activities to address the topic of race with students and discussing how they can touch on issues of racial disparity during the school staff’s professional development.
In response to Tuesday night’s comments, Alberti encouraged members of the public to continue speaking up.
“We are ready to lean into this conversation,” she said. “This is our intention. If you do see us losing focus on this, please do call us out.”
The next meeting of the Moorestown Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, July 16.