LETTER: Questions for the School Board on Race Task Force | #Education

In a letter to MyRye.com, Rye resident John Leonard has questions for the the Rye Board of Education Members ahead of the May 4th presentation on the work of the District’s Race and Inclusivity Task Force. Leonard ran for school board unsuccessfully in 2020. He has submitted the paperwork and plans to run again this year.

To the Editor:

John Leonard, Rye, NY Board of Education Candidate 2020 and 2021

The Rye City School District has announced a public presentation on May 4 – and one hopes a full and open public discussion – of the work of the Race and Inclusivity Task Force it quietly commissioned last summer under a contract with NYU/Steinhardt.

In preparation for this meeting, I would encourage all citizens of Rye to read the NYU/Steinhardt proposal, available (although buried deep in the website) as an attachment to the Board’s agenda of July 7, 2020, when it was approved as a ‘consent item’ with no public discussion.

Before the presentation, the Board should address its own role, specifically:

  1. Why was there no invitation to the general public to comment on the proposed contract prior to its approval, and why wasn’t the proposal distributed to the general public for review at that time? Is a $30,000 expenditure with potentially significant implications for the educational process suitable for consent-agenda approval?
  2. Were other facilitators considered, either with alternative points of view to the Critical Race Theory with which NYU/Steinhardt is closely associated, or simply with expertise in conducting fact-finding inquiries? If not, why not, and if there were good alternatives, why was this the choice?
  3. Why was the coordinator allowed to conduct general task force proceedings in secret, to influence the selection of task force members, and to expel a task force member (one suspects, from failure to toe the party line)? Did the Board approve this expulsion, or did it fail to reserve the power to do so?
  4. Is a facilitator that claims it ‘focuses explicitly on race’ appropriate to assess bias and discrimination issues in other areas that may be more meaningful in Rye?
  5. Will the Board commit to a full public hearing process before extending the contract or implementing curriculum changes based on the Task Force recommendations?

The mandates to conduct both the recent police review and an assessment of bias and discrimination in the school system were both relevant and timely, and deserving of a top quality response. The citizens of Rye should be proud of the police report, both the process and the results. Unfortunately, the evidence to date does not give me the same confidence in the District’s review. The proposal notes that ‘as gatekeepers…Board members wield exceptional power’. Has this power been exercised responsibly and with full consideration of the public interest?

John Leonard



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