Dear Editor:

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, students and alumni from the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District participated in the second installment of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Listening Tour. TRHT and Social Justice Matters (SJM) are groups founded by community members over a decade ago to advance discussions on race in our communities.

Last night’s Listening Tour was an opportunity for students to provide narratives of their experiences in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school system and larger communities. Their stories will help inform the school community of the work that needs to be done to ensure that everyone that walks through our door feels they equally belong, that they feel safe, and thrive in their education. Dr. Kanika Chopra, a SPFHS Language Arts teacher, was the facilitator for the conversation.  

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The Board of Education and I are thankful to the students for their courage in sharing their experiences and their suggestions for moving forward for change in the future. The BOE and SPF Administration embraces student voice as essential feedback and knows that it is conversations like these that require us all to “lean in”  to listen with open hearts and minds.

The BOE, administration and faculty are committed to addressing systemic racism in our society and the ways in which that racism pervades the school environment and experience. We believe and understand education should be a place where all cultures are represented, valued, and celebrated. Our goal as a district is:

  • To ensure that every student knows that they are valued and are supported in every aspect of their school experience. 
  • To increase our efforts in recruiting, hiring, and retaining a more diverse staff.
  • To continue to review the scope and sequence of curriculum to ensure all students feel their stories are told, represented and heard.
  • To continue to hold forums for conversations related to race such as No Place for Hate and the Green Dot program, as well as create new initiatives related to student voice, cultural sensitivity, and current events.

As a result of our previous strategic plans, we have made great strides in diversifying the curriculum and resources our students engage with.  As we enter the next cycle of Strategic Planning, we will build upon the work we have done with an intentional focus on issues of racial identity and diversity. We encourage community involvement in our upcoming Strategic Plan development.

Moving forward, we will engage in a comprehensive analysis of student experiences. We will participate in a systematic review of the curriculum, based on guidance of professional organizations such as The National Council for the Social Studies and Facing History and Ourselves. We continue to review the work that has been done to increase the diversity of texts that students encounter throughout their K-12 experience.

We are thankful for our partnership with TRHT and Social Justice Matters. Thank you to the SPF alumni, current students, the SPF staff and community members that took the time to craft the evening’s conversation and share their stories and experience. We recognize that this work must be done as a whole community.

The next virtual session in the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Listening Tour is Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 p.m. Join the conversation by viewing the Scotch Plains Township or Fanwood, NJ Facebook pages.

Dr. Joan Mast
Superintendent of Schools
Scotch Plains-Fanwood K-12 School District