BOARD INSIGHT: Cultural Proficiency

One of our favorite activities as board members is to witness our students’ experiences first-hand and see the impressive work they are doing in school. Attending the ninth biannual ROC2Change Summit on Race was no exception!

On Friday, November 22, Pittsford hosted the ROC2Change Summit on Race. It was attended by nearly 400 public and private high school students from 42 area schools. The entire event was planned, executed and facilitated by a planning team comprised of Mendon and Sutherland High School students, advisors, and administrators.

This was a unique experience for our Pittsford students as they were responsible for planning and managing this significant large-scale event. By itself, that feat is amazing. But, more importantly, these student leaders took it upon themselves to facilitate the hard discussions about race with their peers in a respectful and compassionate manner.

What we saw were student attendees who arrived with open minds and open hearts, ready to listen and share, ready to problem solve, and ready to create positive change. The Pittsford student planning team selected “The Power of One” as the theme to focus on each person’s ability to make a difference.

John F. Kennedy once stated, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” That is exactly what our students accomplished that day, urging attendees to play a role in making a difference in the future.

We couldn’t be more proud of them!

A bookmark was handed out that included a community agreement along with a list of defined vocabulary words related to the event so that all attendees could feel comfortable knowing they had common behavioral expectations and a common vocabulary. To view the bookmark handed out at ROC2Change, click here.

National keynote speakers Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis mesmerized the audience with a very powerful message of forgiveness. They reminded participants that this was a “sacred space” with 400 different experiences in the room that day, and that no person can fully know the whole story of another just by looking at the surface.

The ROC2Change summit culminated with each school coming together to reflect on the key takeaways from the event and to brainstorm types of activities, campaigns, or movements they could bring back to their respective schools. At the end of the day, each school narrowed their list down to one action they can take this school year. We look forward with great hope to seeing the positive impact that the collective effort of all attendees will have by making their schools and communities better places to learn and live.

Our Pittsford ROC2Change student planning team leaders and volunteers truly inspire us with their dedication and commitment to living our District mission; they are truly doing their best work, being their best selves, and making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Board of Education – Professional Development

Another activity to enhance the role of Board members is the opportunity for professional learning. Continuing on the Board’s commitment to strive for a culturally proficient school community, we built on our two-day summer training workshop with Generation Ready by attending the second workshop with school community stakeholders including staff, administrators and parents.

The training reflected the message from the ROC2Change keynote address when our trainer, Natalie McGee, asked us to participate in an exercise that compared each person’s culture to an iceberg – like an iceberg, 90 percent of who we are cannot be seen by just looking at us. Only 10 percent lies above the surface.

Natalie also personalized the learning experience by asking us to reflect and share why we are in our school community roles. Attendees provided a variety of responses in answering “their own why,” but frequently concluded with “I want to work in a place where I can make a difference.”

It was exciting to immediately observe our teachers and administrators organically discuss how they would share the personal learning exercises with their building colleagues. What an “A-Ha! Moment” for us all. The Power of One!

Natalie also guided us through the history of American public education, helping us understand how we got to where we are in education today. We concluded the day with a brainstorming exercise in which we called out a list of barriers to student learning. There were many. Clearly, much work lies ahead, but we believe we’re on the right path, following the right strategy, with the right guide and team in place.

We look forward to continuing this difficult, tremendous work. At our next workshop in February, we will come together once again to continue our work toward a comprehensive action equity plan.

We are extremely grateful for these opportunities and recognize that we are so fortunate to work with the many dedicated students, teachers, staff members, and administrators who are deeply passionate about making a difference in the lives of others.