Frontier, Union 38 school districts’ anti-racism committee talks progress, creating more structured effort

  • Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 3:08:15 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Members of the Frontier and Union 38 regional school districts’ Anti-Racism and Equity Committee say they aim to create more structure and organization next school year in their efforts toward creating an anti-racist community.

“It’s really about creating more structure around this work,” said Amanda Mozea, who was hired by the districts last year as a consultant to the Anti-Racism and Equity Committee, “and thinking about how we can deepen this work … using the expertise of this committee and these different committees, and making sure we can sustain this.”

At Tuesday night’s joint Frontier and Union 38 School Committee meeting, Mozea said this includes knowing when different regularly scheduled meetings are taking place, or knowing who is reporting to who.

“That’s not to undermine any of the work that was done this year, or to say it was disorganized, but to make it more organized is the goal; to make it more systemic, more entrenched,” Mozea said. “The goal is to make this second nature, to make this work continue long beyond any one of us.”

Kelsey Cropp, a guidance counselor at Frontier Regional School, provided the committee with an overview of its work thus far, from professional development days earlier this year, to revising student handbooks and the adoption of a new logo for Frontier last month. She also noted the addition of an African American Studies course and the Media, Activism and Social Change class, both of which will start next year.

Tuesday’s update from the committee followed concerns from community members about the districts’ focus on anti-racism in the schools.

Shelly Yagodzinski objected in particular to the use of critical race theory — a scholarly approach to understanding race and systemic racism — as a solution to addressing racism.

“Racism is a problem,” she said. “I have great empathy for anyone who has been judged or mistreated based solely on the color of their skin.”

But the goal of critical race theory, according to Yagodzinski, is “to convince young, impressionable minds that if you are white, you are inherently racist.”

“Not one person to date has been able to answer me how this ideology is not racist in itself,” she said.

Yagodzinski said the theory will not only further divide the country and community, it uses a “political agenda” and has no place in elementary schools.

Dana Lavigne echoed many of the same sentiments as Yagodzinski, adding that young children are still establishing their own belief systems.

“What I’ve seen so far watching the Zoom session is that we have teachers in the high school who are teaching their agenda, who are very left wing, who say things that are left wing,” Lavigne said. “My mother specifically said to me that if you know your teacher’s political affiliation, you should not be teaching.”

She asked what led the districts to decide there is a need for this curriculum to be implemented, to which Deerfield School Committee Chair Ken Cuddeback explained that the work of the Anti-Racism and Equity Committee began in response to a letter sent to the Frontier district, co-signed by hundreds of Frontier Regional School alumni, that expressed concern for the lack of education they received when it came to issues of race.

“The administration responded by putting together a broad range of committees … to implement new curriculum efforts,” he said.

Mozea asked, in turn, what the “other side” is that the commentators argued is missing in the conversation of anti-racism, and invited discussion between herself and parents who may have concerns. She also addressed concerns that there is a “political agenda” being forced on students.

“This is not a political issue,” she said. “This has everything to do with humanity.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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