Our Story Begins...
The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee was sanctioned by the Board of Education in the Fall of 2022 to support Board Goal #5. Please see tab on Board Goal #5. Superintendent Michael Ginestre named Assistant Superintendent for Talent & Equity JoAnn Balazs to chair the DEI Committee.
In January 2022, the District launched its DEI Committee. The DEI Committee, comprised of 27 stakeholders (Board of Education Members, Administrators, Teachers, Service Employees, Parents, Community Members, and Students), was named after an intensive interview process. Please see the bottom of the Webpage for District DEI Members and Bios.
Our first meeting was held on January 31, 2022. At the meeting we established the following goals:
- Establish a Mission & Vision for the Committee
- Review and Recommend a DEI Policy to the Board of Education
- Develop a Framework for evaluating and implementing the essential elements of a successful DEI plan
We established the concept that each Committee meeting is designed to do 3 things:
- Build Community
- Study Together & Build Capacity
- Accomplish a Task
At the inaugural meeting we spent some time doing teambuilding exercises. We set Group Norms for Safe Conversations (noting the difference between dialogue and debate) and engaged in a Social Identity Wheel & Cycle of Socialization activity.
Our homework assignment was to begin brainstorming ideas for Mission & Vision Statements; to review a recommended DEI policy for Board of Education consideration; and to reflect on possible survey questions for stakeholders.
We ended our meeting with a Journal Reflection: If we were to develop the perfect community... one that fully supported DEI, what would it look/feel like? and what would the student/staff/family experience be like?
In the 4 meetings that followed, our team reflected on the following:
- Creating the Perfect Community that fully supported DEI
- The Danger of a Single Story
- What it means to Racially Literate
- The NYSED Policy Framework
By our 5th meeting, we delivered our goals of creating a Mission & Vision Statement, recommending a DEI Policy to the Board of Education, and setting a Framework for our work ahead, namely the creation of Subcommittees to address the "Pillars" of the NYSED Policy Framework:
- Teaching & Learning
- Workforce Diversity
- Family & Community Engagement
- Diverse Schools & Learning Opportunities
- Student Supports, Wellness, & Discipline
On June 21, 2022, the DEI Committee presented its work to the Board of Education. Please see link to the Board Meeting on the District homepage and here: DEI Presentation to the Board of Education
DEI Mission & Vision...
- Cultivating a community where all members experience a sense of belonging
- To foster an equitable environment that is culturally responsive, inclusive of all voices, and dedicated to lifelong learning
District DEI Policy #3430: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the District...
Policy #3430 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the District, was presented to the Sweet Home Board of Education for Adoption on June 21, 2022. The District Policy Mirrors NYS Board of Regents Policy Statement, May 2021 NYS DEI Framework Draft
The Policy provides for Definitions, establishes a DEI Coordinator, sets forth the NYSED “Pillars”, and provides for Training for staff. As always, policies are reviewed annually.
Please see link to Sweet Home District Policy: DEI Policy 3430
Our Story continues...
Dear Team Sweet Home:Please allow me this opportunity to report on some of the special milestones we have reached as a District in relation to our DEI journey:District DEI Committee:As you know, the District DEI Committee worked last year establishing the Mission & Vision, Policy, and Framework for our DEI initiative. Our outcomes are as follows:
Superintendents's Conference Day: "Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: All of Us... Together":Our goal for the Fall SCD was to bring all staff members into the fold with the work of our DEI Committee. This past Friday, with the Superintendent's Conference Day at the Elementary buildings, we completed our DEI work sessions with the entire District (Note: there are a few departments who were unable to participate; we will catch up with you soon.)I would like to thank our Administrative Cabinet, all of whom presented during the November and December work sessions. This effort is unprecedented in terms of our grass roots approach to DEI-- launching from within and harnessing the talents and collective efforts of our entire leadership team. I could not be more proud to work with such courageous and dedicated leaders!I would also like to thank many of our DEI Committee members who stepped up to facilitate groups during SCD, including Amanda Glenn, Jen Bennett, Emily Mielcarek, Ona Strang & Rob Imbs.All of Us...Together, we explored:
- Mission: Cultivating a community where all members experience a sense of belonging
- Vision: To foster an equitable environment that is culturally responsive, inclusive of all voices, and dedicated to lifelong learning
- District Policy #3430 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the District: https://www.
sweethomeschools.org/cms/lib/ NY50000724/Centricity/Domain/ 1072/3430.pdf
- Framework: Establishment of Subcommittees (see below)
- Webpage: https://www.
DEI Subcommittees have Launched!As of today, all 5 of our DEI Subcommittees have launched! I'd like to thank the Chairs of each subcommittee and subcommittee members for their time, energy and efforts.
- Having Safe Conversations (promoting Dialogue over Debate);
- Social Identity & the Cycle of Socialization; and
- The Danger of a Single Story
- Teaching & Learning: Chair Toyia Wilson, Asst Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction
A very special thank you to Superintendent Mike Ginestre and the Board of Education for paving the way for this important work. Thank you for giving us the platform, tools, and resources to embark on this journey.And finally, thanks to all of you for sharing your powerful voices. It is an honor to work with each and every one of you. Sweet Home is on the cusp of some groundbreaking work; we've got this!"When you know better, you do better" -- Maya Angelou.Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday season with friends and family, and best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2023.
- Diverse Schools & Learning Opportunities:Chair: Bob Polino, Principal, Willow Ridge
- Student Supports, Discipline & Wellness: Co-Chairs: Katie Barillari, Director of Special Programs & Lindsay Marcinelli, Asst Director of Special Programs
- Workforce Diversity: Chair: Finune Shaibi, Director of Human Resources
- Family & Community Engagement: Chair, Ray Bailey, Asst Principal, High School
February 27, 2023 Meeting
Thank you to all our committee members who came out on a very snowy night!!
- Leaning Into Gratitude
- DEI Subcommittee Updates
- Review of plan for March 2023 Superintendent's Conference Day: DEI Part 2- Striving for Cultural Competency
- Discussion regarding Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day (Calendar Considerations)
- Challenge 2 Change: Vision for Sustainable Student Leadership in DEI
- Exploring Cultural Competency
The committee did an exercise on Social & Cultural Identity: Digging Deeper... Members shared their stories and practiced active listening (listening for understanding and empathy)
Please stay tuned for more updates as the Committee continues its important work!
Achieving Joy and Mastery in Public Schools Podcast
Sweet Home - Using our Stories to Inform Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Practices
District Foyer Project Before and After
For more information, contact:
JoAnn Balazs, Assistant Superintendent for Talent & Equity, at: email@example.com
Board of Education Goal #5
The Board of Education is committed to maintaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive educational and work environment where all stakeholders have the opportunity to succeed and achieve. As one component of this goal, the District will establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee dedicated to developing a framework for evaluating and implementing the essential elements of a successful DEI plan (including: governance; teaching and learning; family and community engagement; workforce diversity; diverse schools and learning opportunities; and student supports, discipline, and wellness). Through this committee, the Board and the District will strive to eliminate barriers to success and build a system where everyone has a place and sense of belonging. Every student, one community...ready for the future."
The Board of Education realizes that in order for the district to fulfill its mission and achieve its vision, all stakeholders must have an equal chance to succeed and achieve. The district is committed to analyzing all practices and creating a structured approach that identifies inequities in the system, and implements strategies to address inequities and ensure each stakeholder belongs and contributes to making our school community a place for all.
DEI Committee Members
Click on photographs to see Committee Bios
Assistant Superintendent- Chair
Middle School Principal
Heritage Heights Principal
Mary Beth Bruce
Teacher Aide & Parent
Student Resource Officer
Dr. Anna Ball
Dr. Corrie Stone- Johnson
Herman Wooten III