OCTOBER 31 2013
Race Equity Issues
Work to address Race Equity Issues has
You may have read or heard about some of the
reports yesterday and today regarding race equity,
specifically a disproportionate number of non-white students
enrolled in Special Education in the Schenectady City School
District. The release from the Office of Civil Rights on
Wednesday was an announcement of a voluntary resolution.
It’s important to provide clarity as sometimes vital points get
lost in translation. OCR did not sanction the district.
The office was acknowledging that Schenectady had already
identified and addressed critical issues, actions that are
pleasing to OCR. Additionally,
we want you to know that our teachers care deeply about all of
our students and there is no implication that our staff is
intentionally discriminating against any students.
The notice we received from OCR was a
pleasant communication offering applause to the work that we are
doing. “The Department is pleased to be releasing a press
release regarding this compliance review this afternoon,” wrote
the Office of Civil Rights on Wednesday. “This voluntary
resolution agreement would not have been possible but for your
support and commitment to improve services for students with and
without disabilities, and English Language Learners in your
We want to provide clarity and make you aware
that prior to the media announcements, we had already identified
disparities and had a thorough plan in place which is currently
being implemented. OCR is aware that we have been
working to address any and all race equity issues and continue
to do work to change the systems. Superintendent Larry
Spring talks about the importance of this often and with great
Spring said it’s important to point out that
Schenectady has the finest teachers.
“Our students are fortunate to have the teachers we have
here,” said Spring.
He said that while teachers are not consciously treating
non-white students differently, sometimes cultural differences
do come in to play.
“Oftentimes, cultural differences in behavior
can be difficult to mediate,” said Spring.
“The reality is that every teacher wants all of his
students to be successful.
They look to special education when they are out of
strategies and need additional help.
Generally, teachers don’t see special education as a bad
Spring said this is not a criticism of the
teaching staff. “It
means we have to do more to recognize the different cultures and
value that students bring to school and to help them learn how
to change contexts and be successful at school without
abandoning their sense of self,” he added.
While the superintendent acknowledges that
the district has taken huge steps to address race equity, he
admits there is work to do.
Spring is adamant and continues to stress that this work
won’t end. Equity has become the cornerstone of every decision
made within this district.
“We have a competent, very talented, teaching
staff here,” said Spring.
“I am certain that each of our teachers want to ensure
that every student achieves success.
We have to implement a system that provides training,
resources and help to do that.”
The plan that we have instituted is beyond
what is mandated. It is that plan which led to a
Resolution Agreement as opposed to some notion of a sanction.
“The Department of Education applauds your
commitment to steadily improving the equitable provision of
regular education interventions and special education
interventions to your students,” wrote OCR.
“Yes, we still have much work to do but we
will continue on the path,” said Spring. “I can’t stress
enough the importance of equity. We must ensure that
race, economics and disability are not predictors for academic
achievement. Anything otherwise, is unacceptable.”
If you have questions or would like to
discuss this topic with Superintendent Spring, please call
370-8100 X-40107. It is very important that you have the