Parents Diversity Council has Big Plans for 2021, Invites Ideas from the Community

The Parents Diversity Council of the Bedford Public Schools has an ambitious agenda planned for 2021.

Officers outlined those prospects at the council’s virtual annual meeting last week.

Monthly educational and social events sponsored by the council’s individual school groups are scheduled virtually for this month, with a Lane School “web hangout” and a John Glenn Middle School kids’ trivia night, according to Kelly Korenak, the council’s secretary and co-president.

The council also hopes to “host and facilitate discussion and training on race and equity issues,” she continued, collaborating with EDCO and Bedford Embraces Diversity on programming.

Ongoing activities will include “engaging in thought-provoking dialogue with the entire school community;” connecting school families from Bedford, the METCO program, and Hanscom Air Force Base; and the campaign for local adoption of Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing the current Columbus Day designation. The council also plans on a third book series.

Damon Harrell, the diversity council’s fundraising chair, said the group emanated from a call from the superintendent’s office for outreach to and involvement with families from Boston and the base. That evolved into the message now on the diversity council’s logo: “Creating a culture of inclusion and belonging among school families.”

“We identified a need for a broader inclusion, more encompassing of diversity,” said Harrell. “The way we could help the most was to promote diversity inclusion and belonging by becoming a non-profit organization to partner with the school district.” The aim, he said, is to “create a lasting and broad coalition.”

The council works toward “building bridges of understanding and social connection to include diverse backgrounds and geography,” as well as emphasizing efforts to diversify school staff.

“This is about getting people to participate,” Korenak told meeting participants. “We hope you see something in which you say, ‘I would participate in that, support that or submit a project to move forward.’ We want people to see what we’re doing and really put their toes in the water. If it feels good, jump in the pool with us. No level of participation or commitment is too small.”

For more information on the Parents Diversity Council or to offer ideas, Harrell said, write to pdcbedford@gmail.com.

Officers informed participants about members of the Bedford Public Schools community through an online game. The data that emerged were: 28 languages; 39 percent student of color; 7.6 percent teachers of color; 98 students in the METCO cohort; and 120 students from the Air Force base.

It was also noted that, of 60 students disciplined with in-house or out-of-school suspensions in 2019, 43 were students with “higher needs.”

Structurally the Parents Diversity Council features its officers and board, fundraising volunteers, and school-based committees, which is the easiest level through which to get involved, Korenak said. This facilitates connections among children and parents, who then “think of things that meet kids’ needs and help bring families closer together.” Serving as advisors are Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad and METCO Director Akil Mondesir.

Korenak emphasized that there is a current opening as high school representative. “We want to try to hold a couple of high school events this spring.”

She recounted highlights from the diversity council’s 2020 agenda. Two book groups for parents and the community explored African-American and indigenous history. The council hosted Bedford educator Claudia Fox Tree for a presentation on indigenous narratives and distributed Black Lives Matter lawn signs.

Also, the council sponsored a monthly virtual mosaic program for Davis School students, sponsored a holiday gift-card drive to benefit Hanscom and METCO families, funded the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Book Club at John Glenn Middle School, and collaborated with Bedford Embraces Diversity and the Bedford Public Library on other programs.

Korenak also noted a new group focusing on diverse musical traditions to benefit students.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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