Amherst to develop anti-racist curriculum for elementary schools 

  • The Wildwood School in Amherst GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2020 8:20:13 PM

AMHERST — An anti-racist curriculum will be launched in the public schools in Amherst and Pelham beginning in September, according to Superintendent Michael Morris.

Morris is pledging that every student, teacher and staff member at Amherst’s three elementary schools, and at Pelham Elementary School, will be part of this new effort.

“In Amherst and Pelham, the firm commitment in the fall is that there will be an anti-racist curriculum for all students in grades K through 6,” Morris told the Amherst-Pelham Regional Committee at its meeting on Thursday.

The curriculum is being developed by Doreen Cunningham, assistant superintendent of diversity, equity and human resources, in partnership with Jennifer Smith and Derek Shea, the assistant principal and principal, respectively, at Crocker Farm School.

Smith and Shea have spearheaded what is known as the Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework at that school as part of a school improvement plan.

Morris said the specifics of the school-wide curriculum will be developed and unveiled during the summer.

The announcement of the program came after Morris also informed the committee of the recent death of Susan Kennedy Marx.

Kennedy Marx,  a longtime educator and guidance counselor, died from cancer in May.

Though retired after stints as interim principal at Crocker Farm, Fort River and the former Mark's Meadow elementary schools, Kennedy Marx continued to be involved in the community and pursuing social justice issues, including being on the committee to select the annual Roger L. Wallace Excellence in Teaching Award.

Morris said he was honored to have worked with Kennedy Marx as a colleague and praised her deep commitment to equity that enriched the lives of students and her colleagues.

Her family and friends have established the Susan Kennedy Marx Foundation for Social Justice. Its website is at socialjuticeforall.org.

A write-up there states, “She firmly believed in the importance of forging connections across differences, fueled by mindful awareness of self identity and the intentional practice of empathy and compassion. This was the basis from which she fought for equity in education, believing it is our responsibility to affirm each student’s lived and institutionally dividing experiences, while ensuring renewed actions for successful learning, connections, and reciprocity.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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