Mattituck, Greenport schools to take part in diversity survey

Students in the Mattituck and Greenport school districts will take part in a survey on diversity issues next month as the schools seek to understand how to best address the needs of their increasingly diverse populations.
Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendant Jim McKenna announced the plan at a Mattituck school board meeting last Thursday, Oct. 21, as he discussed his district’s attempts to answer charges last year that the school was not doing as much as it should to accommodate people with different backgrounds.
The survey will be conducted by the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare in conjunction with Southold Town, he said, adding that the Southold School District declined to participate.
Nearly 90 percent of Mattituck’s students are white, according to the district’s research as part of the diversity initiative, Mr. McKenna said. The limited racial mix heightens the need to be sensitive to students who may lack role models with backgrounds similar to their own, he added.
The district began posting job openings on multicultural websites in February, and plans to make it a priority to recruit candidates from organizations ranging from the Long Island Latino Teachers Association to the Long Island Black Educators Association to the Shinnecock Nation, the Urban League and the National Coalition of Black Women, according to Mr. McKenna.
“This is something we’re particularly proud of. We’ve had our eyes open to a bigger pool of candidates,” said Mr. McKenna, who added that the district had so far hired one African-American student teacher from Dowling College through the expanded candidate search.
The district also has revised its mission statement to reflect its goal of inclusion, he reported. The statement is slated to be adopted at the school board’s Nov. 18 meeting. Being circulated both in Spanish and in English, it describes the district as “dedicated to providing a welcoming and safe environment where diversity, interdependence and self-discovery are valued.” It outlines four goals, including nurturing passion for life and learning, fostering collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, encouraging a range of perspectives and promoting and practicing personal integrity, according to Mr. McKenna.
The statement adds that “as a result, students develop academic excellence, confidence and resiliency to face future challenges in order to contribute to and inspire positive change in the local and global community.”
The district, Mr. McKenna reported, is participating in several local and county programs to promote diversity, including Southold Town’s Anti-Bias Day and Suffolk County Unity Day. The district also sent several students to the county’s African-American Advisory Board College and Career Fair in Hauppauge earlier this fall.
District administrators have been taking part in workshops run by Roberta Richin, executive director of the Council for Prejudice Reduction.
“She kept looking at it as getting kids to take a look at the bigger picture,” said Mr. McKenna. “You are a part of the world and the world is a part of you … A world-class school demonstrates a vision of the world.”
Also on Thursday, the school board appointed music teacher Jacob Fowle and English teacher Anne Gilvarry to be advisers for a school musical this winter. The district has not held a musical production for more than a decade.
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