Teachers union adopts resolution in support of diversity, inclusion

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The Rome Teachers Association (RTA) union has adopted a resolution reasserting support of diversity and inclusion in schools and the community, while school district officials are citing progress in overall district practices involving minority-related concerns. The topics were discussed at the Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

• RTA President Robert Wood and Vice President Josette Canarelli addressed the board regarding the union’s resolution, which was read aloud by Canarelli.

The resolution, adopted last month, says the RTA and its members “have always and will continue to acknowledge their individual and professional responsibility to honor all children in their classrooms, as well as their parents and fellow community members without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, gender identity, physical characteristics or economic status.”

The resolution also states the union and its members “will persist in rejecting practices and policies that impinge on basic human dignity and safeguard members of diverse communities from harmful acts, and policies that deny their equal and inalienable rights.” It further says the RTA will “remain steadfast in its long-standing support of diversity and inclusion in our schools and our community.”

Wood said “we want to embrace everyone,” adding “we’re going to solve the problem....Do it together.” He later noted the community was fortunate to have a very active NAACP organization. He commented “let’s work together...shine a light” on the community, and referred to “wonderful people doing wonderful things.”

The Board of Education at its Sept. 13 meeting approved a resolution reaffirming the school district’s commitment to inclusivity and equality. Rome branch NAACP President Jacqueline Nelson has spoken at school board meetings on Sept. 13 and Oct. 4, expressing concern about the district’s handling of issues involving minorities.

• Before the RTA representatives spoke, the board was addressed by Felicia James-Williams of West Thomas Street, who said she has been elected as vice president of the Rome branch NAACP.

“Progress has been made in efforts to make all children feel accepted,” James-Williams remarked. She also observed that the district’s hiring of minority teachers along with training to address diversity topics is “a positive thing.” She told the board, “I look forward to working with you.”

Board President Paul Fitzpatrick followed James-Williams’ remarks by commenting on the district making “very good” progress. He referred to “a lot more to be done,” but said the district is “headed in a good direction.”

• Sessions involving diversity and bias awareness will be held at Rome Free Academy and Strough Middle School for both students and staff, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said after the meeting.

The sessions will cover aspects such as certain actions and statements which can be perceived in ways that lead to problems, Blake explained.

Blake also said the district’s minority staff has grown significantly through hirings over the past six months.

District representatives have been in contact with local NAACP officials as well as other community organizations in seeking to address minority-related concerns. Among the discussions was a two-hour meeting on Nov. 14.

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