Letter to Brewster CommUNITY regarding Task Force Progress and Survey
Dear Parents and Community Members,
November 29, 2017
We are writing to update you on the progress of the task force that was formed as a result of the August 22, 2017 Town Hall meeting that was convened to address two issues: how to strengthen and unite the community after a video surfaced showing graduates using a racial slur and a newly proposed logo to represent the District’s Strategic Coherence Plan that some people thought would be replacing the Brewster Bear mascot (it will not). At this meeting, community members were invited to sign up to serve on a task force to address issues of bigotry, hatred and racism in the District and community; and ultimately find ways to strengthen and unite the community so that these issues do not cause further divisions. As a result of this meeting, 39 community members joined the task force, which has so far met 8 times. This committed group of volunteers, who has devoted approximately 30 hours of their time together meeting between 7:00pm-9:00pm at Brewster High School, have had frank and open conversations about bigotry, racism and hatred in our school District and the community. These have not been easy conversations. Most adults think that conversations about these topics lead to conflict. Our group would contend that the lack of conversations about these issues leads to conflict. We want this to change.
The purpose of this letter is to give you an update on our activities to date and help you to see where we are going.
The community forum on October 4 was focused on getting feedback from the community on the following areas:
Concerns related to the community
Questions related to the community
Recommendations for the community
Concerns related to my child (ren's) school
Questions related to my child (ren's) school
Recommendations for my child (ren's) school
In a district of 3,200 students, only 11 community members attended the October 4th forum. Although the turnout was discouraging, we received valuable feedback and are forging ahead. Below are answers to some of the questions that various members of the task force have been asked:
What are we calling ourselves?
We have agreed that we needed a name that illustrates who we are as a group. We are pleased to call ourselves ‘Brewster CommUNITY’ to focus on why the group was formed, which is to strengthen and unite the community around our assets, not our differences.
What are the qualifications for serving on this task force? Who selected the members?
As stated above, the task force members responded to a request made at the August 22 Town Hall meeting to sign up to serve with the purpose of changing the negative message created in and outside of the community as a result of the student video. Members of this task force include students, parents of students representing each school in the district, members of the community who currently do not have students attending our schools and several administrators who serve in an advisory role. The name of the Brewster CommUNITY members are listed at the conclusion of this letter.
How often have you met and what have you been discussing?
As of the writing of this letter, Brewster CommUNITY has met eight times. During these meetings we have established group norms, discussed our charge, organized our ‘Community Conversation’ structure, processed information from the community feedback that we received, and are currently planning another community forum so that we can share what we learned at the October 4 community forum and from this (CLICK HERE FOR THE SURVEY) that we are asking the community to complete. The survey will close on December 15, 2017.
Do you plan on conducting a community forum on the SCP logo?
On September 29, 2017, the District shared a Q&A document with the community to address questions that were written on index cards at the August 22 Town Hall meeting. This Q & A document clarified questions about the SCP logo mainly stating that the logo would not replace the Brewster Bear mascot, which was the belief among some people. While the task force had planned to convene another meeting about the logo, we decided that the logo was not something that this group should address. The logo conversation was rooted in the District’s Strategic Coherence Plan so it should be explained by the District. This meeting took place on October 25 with 9 people attending. At the November 14, 2017 Board of Education meeting, the Board agreed 6-1 to pilot the logo for one year and during the year, enlist feedback from the community in the form of focus groups and surveys. Information will be shared about when and where the focus groups will take place and when surveys will be administered.
Where are we now? What have you uncovered?
Because the October 4 community forum was only attended by 11 community members, we need to obtain more feedback. We ask that you complete this (CLICK HERE FOR THE SURVEY) , which expands upon the questions discussed on October 4.
What are your next steps?
After the survey is completed, we will meet again to review the combined feedback from the October 4 community forum and the (CLICK HERE FOR THE SURVEY) . We will then host another community forum to share the findings from these two data sources and make some recommendations to the District and the community at large for how we can work together to strengthen and unite the community and change any impressions that Brewster is a place where bigotry, racism and hatred are practiced.
Brewster CommUNITY Members
Susan Adeyeye, student
Ann Marie Kovaleski
Pastor Raymond Mellett, Sr.
Darlyn Palma, student
Jill Pino, student
Kelsi Rojas, student
Kimberly Romero, student
Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, District advisor
Michelle Gosh, District advisor
Karen Kellogg, District advisor