By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
HUDSON — For over a year, one group has focused on race and equity within the Hudson Public Schools.
The group, called Voices, presented its work to the School Committee May 11.
Voices consists of HPS educators, nurses, counselors and psychologists. It was born in summer 2020 during the period of nationwide conversations about race following the death of George Floyd.
According to Science Curriculum Director and Voices leader Sarah Davis, Voices’ vision involves making sure Hudson students of every race and ethnicity have equitable opportunities to be successful.
“When we talk about racism, it’s not enough to just not be racist … We need to be actively anti-racist,” Voices leader Judith Merra said.
School Committee members thanked Voices for its work.
“It’s not easy,” said Steven Smith. “They’re really difficult conversations to have.”
How Voices was formed
HPS created its district improvement plan roughly three years ago. One of the plan’s objectives was to address the climate and culture in the district.
Every year, the district now creates specific steps based on these objectives.
Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said that one of those steps was for about 60 administrators and staff members to participate in cultural competency training through the Assabet Valley Collaborative to help understand equity and how to respond to social issues in Hudson schools. That training wrapped up in early 2020.
Then came the death of George Floyd.
“The need for dialogue regarding race, racial issues, anti-racism practices was certainly magnified exponentially by the murder of George Floyd in May,” Rodrigues said.
The group reconvened to discuss how to react and how to guide conversations. They created Voices in June and they’ve continued to meet once a month ever since.
“I appreciate that we’re doing this,” School Committee Vice Chair Molly MacKenzie said to Rodrigues. “…This is wonderful, and I appreciate, Marco, that the seeds of this work was planted before Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.”
Davis said voices group members were driven by two goals — one, understanding how polices may limit students’ ability to thrive, particularly students of color; and two, to develop a district that engages all students as “empathetic and well-informed advocates of social justice.”
Voices has covered topics including implicit bias, micro-aggressions and various levels of racism.
“We often think about racism as those individual acts of meanness, and yet there is a much larger system at play,” Merra said.
Some of the data that Voices is examining is enrollment in advanced courses at the high school, student dropout data and a survey of parents, teachers and students about how they perceive the culture at the schools, Davis said.
MacKenzie asked if Voices had considered partnering with an outside group to audit the schools. Rodrigues said they recently asked that same question and that such discussions may be part of Voices’ summer planning.
Over the summer, Merra said the group will be working on a plan to embed their work in the schools. Part of this work will include examining Hudson’s data to determine where there may be inequities.
“We can’t just have a few professional development sessions and expect us to be, ‘O.K. We’re good with this,’” Merra said. “This is really long-term, evolving work that we’re doing.”