SEEN Update: We’re Doing The Work, And You Can Too! 

Dear SEEN Community,

How’s your summer going? While our emails have been on a summer vacation schedule, our work has not. We formed as an organization in June of last year, and are pleased to celebrate several successes thus far. Think of this email as our “Impact Report” for 2020-21.


But first, we invite you to get more involved in our work. Maybe you got involved early and want to get reinvested, or maybe you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get more active in your community? Here’s your chance! Please fill out this survey and, in the process, you will learn more about our current work and be able to understand what your commitment might look like. Please also consider forwarding the survey to other folks!


In the last year, Saratoga Educational Equity Network has grown from an idea to an organization with a membership of over 325 individuals – between our email list and social media accounts – and our reach is much larger and still growing. In the last month alone, SEEN Cares – our public Facebook and Instagram page – reached nearly 1,400 people. This is one way we build more awareness outside of our smaller network.


Here’s what else we’ve done:

  • Pushed and empowered SSCSD to follow through on its commitment to equity of opportunity with the creation of the District Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC), a group of 39 educators, students, and community members who are working to make a school district that supports and fosters learning, growth, and opportunity for each and every student. We are also excited to note that the district recently hired a new member of the Human Resources team – Michael Ngadi – who has a background in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • Presented “A Seat At This Table” panel discussions —
    • The first, in November 2020, was moderated by Dr. Renata Williams (‘01) and featured the voices of Black and multiracial alumni, with Kristen Dart (‘01), Ryan Smith (‘00), Jaymes White (‘05), and Deshaya Williams (‘98).
    • The second took place in January 2020 as part of a program for MLK Weekend and was also moderated by Dr. Renata Williams. This panel featured recent BIPOC alumni Tyrell Clay (’16), Demi Hartz (‘20), Chandler Hickenbottom (‘14), Alexa Rahman (‘20), and Amalia Culpepper-Wehr (‘20).
    • The third, in May 2021, was moderated by Deshaya WIlliams (‘98) and highlighted the parent perspective of raising students of color in SSCSD, with panelists Steve Boxley, Warren Dart, Joy King, Patty and Ron Kosiba, and Jennifer and Richard Oliver-Goodwin.
    • Through our collective support and yours, we were able to compensate these speakers for their time. SEEN holds two core values in creating these events – that they are accessible regardless of one’s ability to pay, and that BIPOC are paid for their time and their labor. Thank you for helping us to live those values this year.
  • Held an information session for people interested in serving on the Board of Education in the future and/or contributing to campaigns. Thank you to Eddy Abraham, Beth Braxton, Tony Krackeler, Natalya Lakhtakia, and Heather Reynolds for joining our panel.
  • The Faculty & Staff Committee ran a reading and discussion group around Dr. Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive (2020) with a committed group of educators. Maybe you read along at home? Special thanks to Capital CFO for providing books for this project, which enabled us to ensure access to these materials and conversations.
  • Held six General Meetings to share information, facilitate important discussions, and create space for community and relationship building. You can find meeting slides and notes on our website.
  • Hosted our first large fundraising event, #SEENWalking for Equity – a virtual and in-person 5K walk. With all donations matched by Capital CFO, we were able to raise nearly $3,000 to support programming. We don’t take this contribution for granted. Thank you.
  • Created an educator resource, “The Scene with SEEN,” a monthly email for SSCSD faculty and staff with professional development resources to aid culturally-responsive pedagogy. Three editions have gone out so far, and you can reach out to your child’s teacher or other educators in our district to sign up using this form. Or sign up yourself!
  • Supported work done by the DEIC and Board of Education with a letter-writing campaign and series of public comments to the Board of Education throughout April, May, and June, sharing perspectives and information that bolstered support for their work and helped to codify the Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in Education Policy and Regulation. Congratulations and thank you to all involved and to the Policy subcommittee of the DEIC and the Policy Committee of the Board of Education. Thank you to the Board of Education for recognizing the need to protect these rights beyond a single term or values of a single teacher.
  • Celebrated our first birthday at Ben & Jerry’s, and raised $1,200 toward our Little Free Libraries project. Thank you to Ben & Jerry’s, the Pipino family, and to each of you who came out to meet us and donated money, books, or just enjoyed ice cream on a beautiful June day.
  • Celebrated Juneteenth with the community the next weekend and added to our library a full list of books from our wish list at Northshire.
  • Listened to numerous podcasts, attended countless webinars, viewed videos, read articles, and dug into the data to learn, share, and learn again. It’s with this in mind that we built our website and our social media communities, and produced 50 weekly emails and 8 action alerts to the email list over the last 13 months.

We share all of this today with a vision for the future and of what we can accomplish together as our group grows. The Steering Committee met this week to follow up on the discussions from our Steering “retreat” in early June. We’re excited about a number of programs in the planning stages, including a back-to-school event with community activities, a forum on critical race theory and its application, affinity groups for middle school students, and a new program series with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios. First up though is installing those Little Free Libraries, with confirmed sites at the Saratoga Rec Center and Franklin Community Center. We are actively reimagining committees to get more participation from everyone here, and encourage you to complete the revised survey.


Actions

  • Get More Involved. We told you about it at the start but it’s worth mentioning again! SEEN has reached its first anniversary and is looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year with the hope of getting more folks involved at different levels. Please complete this survey if you are interested in becoming more involved!
  • Board of Education. The Board of Education met last night and you can read our notes from the meeting. The next meeting is on August 26 at 7 p.m. While you are now required to appear in person to make public comments, the meetings will be streamed on YouTube to watch from home, with links posted on the district website. SEEN is organizing different community members to attend meetings throughout the coming year to alert our group to potential action items and to keep everyone informed. If you are interested in signing up to be a notetaker at an upcoming meeting, please email us. The full schedule of Board meetings and locations for the 2021-22 school year is also posted to the District website.

Resources

  • “Fighting the Right’s Attack on CRT in Schools”. Standing Up for Racial Justice, an organization and “home for white people working for justice,” will host a webinar next Tuesday, July 27 from 8-9 p.m. The session will focus on the way schools are subject to culture wars as a way to attack both public education and advances for racial justice. Speakers include Zakiyah Ansari of the Alliance for Quality Education (a nonprofit pushing for full and equitable funding of public education here in New York), Scot Nakagawa from Change Lab, and SURJ members, about strategies and organizing for racial justice in education. Register for the Zoom webinar and learn more about resources from SURJ.
  • “The Attack on ‘Critical Race Theory’: What’s Going On?”. Another webinar, also on Tuesday, July 27, will be hosted by EmbraceRace at 8:30 p.m. Their programs are always informative and accessible, and this discussion about the contention around “CRT,” the relationship between “the racial past and racial present,” and the political forces at play will certainly meet the standard they’ve set. Register to watch live or to watch the recording at a later date.

SEEN’s emails are being produced on a summer schedule. Our next email will hit inboxes in mid-August before resuming a regular schedule when we return to school in September.


~ The SEEN Team

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