Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Two adults speaking to students with backpacks
Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Commissioner of NY State Dept. of Education and Dr. Long, Superintendent, greet students on the first day back to school.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

In alignment with our district mission and goals, we desire to achieve our district equity goal to create a community where all members feel valued. In recognition of our diverse school community, we will ensure for all an equitable education experience in which race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, sexuality and disability are not predictors of student success. 

The Menands School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee formed in January 2019 when a small representative group of stakeholders identified a need to dedicate attention and resources to these values. Since then, members of the committee and the Board of Education have participated in learning opportunities conducted by the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS) and the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) to learn from colleagues and experts on DEI, and further integrate these practices into the Menands School.

The values of diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded into our school mission and further emphasized in the goals developed by the Menands Board of Education, as a part of a retreat facilitated by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). To assist with the development of a strategic plan to put these goals into practice, the Board enlisted the support of the Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA) in January 2021.

Currently, the DEI Committee is working with Progression Partners and is participating in their Equity Institute training series to delve into DEI-related topics and craft an Equity Action Plan. More information on Progression Partners and the Equity Institute can be found here.

Through these efforts, our goal is to foster an environment that values, celebrates and respects all students, staff and school community members and ensures student success regardless of socioeconomic factors, race, gender, ability, ethnicity, sexuality or religion.

The work of this committee, the Board and our school community continues on an ongoing basis, and will use this space to share progress and updates. This work has been a collaborative effort between the DEI and Strategic Planning Committees. The membership of these committees is listed below:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

  • Lisa Ball – Middle School ELA Teacher
  • Jennifer Cannavo – Principal
  • Andi Delaney – Board of Education Member
  • John Diefenderfer – Board of Education Member
  • Lauren Hayes – K-8 Music Teacher
  • Dr. Maureen Long – Superintendent
  • Vanessa Mercado – Parent
  • Joseph Nuss – Parent
  • Cheri Vandenberg – School Counselor
  • Meghan Widrick – Coordinator of Pupil Personnel Services
  • Jen Wilson – Parent

Strategic Planning Committee

  • Lisa Ball – Middle School ELA Teacher
  • Jennifer Cannavo – Principal
  • Courtney Jaskula – Board of Education Member
  • Jayme Keppler – Elementary Teacher
  • Dr. Maureen Long – Superintendent
  • William Nevins – Board of Education President
  • Joseph Nuss – Parent
  • Cheri Vandenberg – School Counselor
  • Meghan Widrick – Coordinator of Pupil Personnel Services

Guiding Framework

As we at the Menands UFSD have continued to work on our diversity, equity and inclusion goals, we join the New York State education community in their commitment to these values in our schools. The Board of Regents DEI Framework and the joint statement from New York State educational organizations have outlined comprehensive standards that align with our efforts. We have also joined the 24 component school districts of the Capital Region BOCES to emphasize the importance of providing all students a safe and equitable environment.

Equity Statement of Commitment – #24United

The Menands Union Free School District stands together with the 24 school districts that comprise the Capital Region BOCES region in our shared responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, particularly those who have been historically marginalized. It is our commitment that the diverse experiences and perspectives of our students, families and staff will be recognized, reflected and embraced in our educational institutions.

While our 24 school communities in the Capital Region each have a unique makeup, we all share one commonality: Our desire to provide an equitable educational experience that ensures opportunities and the necessary support for success for all students. It is our pledge to embrace the diverse experiences, values, beliefs, backgrounds and perspectives of our communities as we endeavor to prepare our students for the society they will encounter in life beyond our school systems.

NYSSBA, NYSCOSS, Conference of Big 5 School Districts and Rural Schools Association of NYS Joint Statement

School districts in many communities are considering and adopting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies and practices. Many schools have faithfully implemented DEI efforts for years, and more have joined since the Board of Regents called on all schools in the state to develop policies that advance DEI as a priority.

In some communities, debates have arisen over the intent and focus of these efforts. Now, to ensure outcomes that best serve our young people, debates must be resolved through a reliance on facts and on a true understanding of the work being done in our schools.

The goal of DEI efforts is to create a positive learning environment for all students and eliminate barriers that limit a student’s chance to be successful. When a school board adopts a DEI policy, it is committing to ensuring all students have equal educational opportunities and the resources they need to succeed.

DEI policies and practices aim to include all groups that have been disadvantaged, whether due to race, ethnicity, disability, gender or gender identity, socioeconomic status or another factor. That is why DEI efforts include a focus on advocating to ensure all schools have resources matched to the needs of the students they serve.

In public education, school boards, with the advice and counsel of school superintendents and staff, adopt a curriculum that teaches students to think analytically, understand multiple perspectives and draw their own conclusions. An equitable and inclusive education prepares all students for a lifetime of thoughtful discussion and analysis of issues that shape and define our society, today and into the future.

The adoption of DEI initiatives by school districts is about ensuring that all students have the opportunities and assistance we would want for our own children – and preparing all students for a diverse workforce and world they will enter upon leaving school.

Our future depends on public education and the success of our schools requires a commitment from those in our communities who hold differing perspectives to resolve those differences in a respectful manner.