Dear SEEN Community,
Many things stood out on Election Day, but the first one was this: more than 8,000 people voted in the City of Saratoga Springs itself – and when people turn out, change takes hold. Why do we raise this? Because this past May, fewer than 4,500 people voted in the Board of Education elections. There are more than 35,000 voters in the Saratoga Springs City School District. Only 12 percent exercised their right to vote on the way public education meets the needs of each and every student in our District.
School district controversies have been used as wedge issues in local and state elections, and news media have already framed the elections as verdicts on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools with the misnomer of “critical race theory.” If you voted this week, and didn’t vote in May, write this in your calendar: School Board Elections, May 17, 2022.
In the interim, SEEN continues to work with partners in the community, and together with you. On Halloween, we joined Saratoga BLM, MLK Saratoga, and the League of Women Voters at the Trunk-or-Treat at Dyer-Phelps Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, where we hosted a story time and were able to give out books. And the next day, on Monday, November 1, members of the Steering Committee installed the third SEEN Little Free Library, this one at Ben & Jerry’s – thank you to Ben & Jerry’s and to the Pipino Family.
Our collaboration with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios continues with the “American Politics and Community Today” reading group, sponsored by Humanities NY, with remaining dates on November 8 and November 22 at Saratoga Arts, and December 6 at the Frederick Allen Elks Lodge.
The Planning Committee for our “Critical Conversations” forum series – on what CRT actually is, how it applies to or informs schools, and how it helps us to understand challenges in Saratoga Springs – is busy planning the next session, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, November 30th.
And our committees continue to meet as well. If you would like to become more directly involved in a committee, please email us and let us know!
- Share Your Talents. SEEN is looking for assistance with social media – developing and posting content, designing infographics, and monitoring sites. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
- Looking for a one-time way to volunteer? Take notes for SEEN at a school board meeting. See the schedule and sign up here.
- Monday, November 8. The SEEN/C.R.E.A.T.E. “American Politics and Community Today” Reading Group will be talking about integration – what it means, how it works, what its goals are, and if we are fulfilling them in Saratoga – and how we weave together community. Black luminaries, literati, and academics joined at Haverford College in 1969 to discuss the problem of Black separatist movements that were gaining popularity across the United States, and Ellison shared his ideas about integration as a process of imagination. It’s a short reading, but if you are part of a community, we want you to be part of ours. We will gather at Saratoga Arts Monday from 5-6:15 p.m. and talk while we work on a community weaving project.
- Tuesday, November 9. The Board of Education will meet at Geyser Road Elementary starting at 7 p.m. Preview the agenda, and attend or stream the meeting. SEEN is still working to have notetakers at each meeting, an opportunity for each of us to see how the Board works and the issues coming to the Board table. You can also catch up on the recent Board Workshop on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives (10/26) and Board of Education meeting (10/28). DEI is coming up frequently at the table and in public comment.
- Tuesday, November 16. Save the Date for the next City Council meeting, where revisions to the Civilian Review Board are expected to be shared. It will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, and is recommended to arrive earlier if you would like to make a public comment.
This week’s resources are materials some of you have shared with us. They’re so good we had to pass them on.
- Students Are Fed Up With Adults. From CNN via WDSU, Kyung Lah and Jack Hannah share the ways students are exhausted by the ways adults have politicized their education. If people think their arguments against “CRT” are serving children or defending them, the students don’t see it that way. Parents drawing attention to threats they perceive in critical race theory are not only misplaced, but draining the energy of students, faculty and staff, and administrators alike. Is it student-centered learning or adult comfort that the right is pursuing?
- Racial Attention Deficit. Published in Science, Sheen Levine, Charlotte Reypens, and David Stark outline the ways that white people often tune out or lose interest in their Black colleagues’ perspectives, and presume their colleagues are less competent. In many cases, witnessing Black excellence eliminates the gaps between white people’s actions and their stated values of inclusion. This discussion illustrates biases many of us still hold, and provides a touchpoint for when we talk about systemic issues, or how racism is a cultural phenomenon rather than just an individual one. These perceptions and presumptions build on what white people have learned almost by osmosis, cultured over years in society, and also from decreased access to Black people, through property and redlining, urban renewal, self-segregation, and opportunity gaps.
~ The SEEN Team