Letter To Hornell School District, Getting A Lot Of Attention Locally On FB

July 13, 2020

HORNELL, NY – A letter (see below) is being sent to the Hornell School District. The letter, signed by many local Hornell graduates, compliments the Hornell School system, for doing a great job at handling the Corona virus, but says that there has been a “lack of response” in educating students about racism, and the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Aubery, and others. We contacted Hornell School Superintendent Jeremy Palotti this morning. Here is what Superintendent Paloitti said to us: “This is certainly an important topic, one that we are working on diligently in the Hornell City School District. I would say that our approach is much deeper than what is suggested in doing here in this letter. The work on equity, in my opinion, needs to be woven into the fabric of our work, our curriculum, our faculty and staff if it is to result in systemic changes. We began diving deeper into this endeavour well before the resurgence of the BLM in the wake of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. We have done so with the involvement of our staff in professional learning opportunities on the topic, the investment of resources to fill classroom and school library shelves with literature authored by diverse authors that go beyond the important figures of MLK and Rosa Parks. While I understand where some may be frustrated with what is perceived as a passive approach to the recent movement, we as a school aim to be responsive and not reactive. It would be easy to be reactive, especially during the closure due to the pandemic and to have done more harm than good. It would have been easy to make mistakes or to have words or ideas taken out of context due to the lack of in person contact with teachers and students. We know how the telephone game goes and this topic is way too important to address without our teachers, administrators and most importantly our kids together to wrestle with it. To combat systemic changes, we need more than highlighting “Heroes and Holidays” and we need more than focusing on the topic for a month in the year. If we are to truly make changes, it involves making discussions on equity, bias, etc commonplace in our schools, equipping students with the skills, knowledge and resources to think critically about the world around them and to see the world outside of Hornell, NY. This is what we are working on here, starting with resources for kids and professional learning for the adults that support our children.”

Below, is the letter that is being sent to the Hornell School District:

Mr. Jeremy Palotti
Superintendent of Schools
Hornell City School District
120 Raider Road
Hornell, NY 14843

Dear Mr. Jeremy Palotti and the HCSD Board of Education:*

The Hornell City School District’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has proven that it can adapt and evolve in unprecedented ways. You—everyone from the Superintendent, to the Board members, to the teachers and staff—rose to the challenges of the pandemic in the following ways: (i) shifting to online classes while ensuring that students who rely on school meals get them; (ii) modifying the budget approval process; (iii) working tirelessly to ensure seniors had the in-person graduation they deserved; (iv) organizing virtual summer classes; and (v) preparing for the many realities that HCSD could face this fall. We know the list of accomplishments does not stop here and you should know that your community is proud of your efforts.

Despite your effective response to the pandemic, your lack of response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others has been disappointing. Their deaths have highlighted the systemic racism and racial inequality that are pervasive across our country. While these are not new issues—after all, systemic racism and racial inequality have plagued our country for centuries—these deaths and the ensuing social unrest remind us that it is vital that we all engage in the fight against racism. As key members in this fight, schools must do their part in teaching, discussing, and contextualizing these issues, while also empowering and supporting their students.

We are asking you, the leaders of HCSD, to join in the fight against systemic racism and racial inequality in unprecedented ways. It is critical that we work together under your leadership to face these issues in our district if we are truly to prepare students for their future, as our vision statement claims.

We want to emphasize that we send this letter with respect for the past and present educators at HCSD. Our hope is that the concerns we raise here will build a greater sense of unity and understanding among all members of our community, and support for those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), both in our community and across the country.

We urge you to implement the following measures to better educate our students on the roots and persistence of systemic racism, and how we all can fight it.

Short-Term** (within one 1 year)

1. Create a committee dedicated to examining how HCSD educates its students on issues of systemic racism and racial inequality and how to improve it. This committee could start by asking questions,*** with the goal of creating annual reports that guide HCSD’s planning on these issues. The committee could include a student and faculty representative from each school, as appropriate, as well as a member of the Hornell Alumni Association.

2. For any class covering U.S. history, utilize online resources where (often decades-old) textbooks and other materials fall short. We believe it is important to teach that racism and discrimination are ongoing issues and were not solved by the civil rights movement in the 1960s. While we understand that textbooks cannot be replaced overnight, we believe teachers should supplement their print materials with (free) online resources to provide their students a more accurate view of American history and the presence of systemic racism and racial inequality in contemporary society. We also believe that these supplemental materials should be built into the curriculum, perhaps by requiring students to write reflections based on these materials. Here is one particularly helpful resource for teachers: https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources.

3. Provide access to resources on systemic racism and racial inequality by adding three resource pages to HCSD’s website: (1) one publicly accessible page (geared towards the community like the “COVID-19 Info” banner currently on the website); (2) another accessible through the Parent Portal (geared towards parents and caregivers); and (3) a third accessible on the Student Portal (geared towards students of all ages). The document attached to this letter provides a list of resources, including books, articles, podcasts, and videos, that could helpful when building these resource pages. [TO THOSE SIGNING: MESSAGE RICH KUBIAK IF YOU WOULD LIKE A COPY OF THIS RESOURCE LIST.]

4. Add Black History Month to the HCSD calendar and create programming to highlight Black history and address systemic racism and racial inequality as they exist in contemporary society.

5. Promote and sponsor student organizations and programming dedicated to raising awareness about systemic racism and racial inequality.

Medium-Term (2-4 years)

6. Budget for and invest in BIPOC materials, including (i) story books, toys, lessons, videos, and other learning tools for K–3rd graders to enjoy and discover during reading and other choice-based activities and (ii) literature, primary source material, images, and teacher education tools to support education in Grades 4–8.

7. Annually host speakers to present and hold trainings on issues of systemic racism, racial inequality, and implicit bias. These speakers could speak to student audiences spanning all grades. It would also be wonderful to host speakers that could address these issues, and diversity and inclusion generally, at graduations.

Long-Term (5+ Years)

8. Replace social studies and other textbooks that fail to properly address systemic racism and racial inequality.

We firmly believe that these measures are essential in creating a safe environment for all students and equipping them with the tools they will need to be prepared for their future. Understanding, though, that our list is not comprehensive, we want to hear your ideas. We ask that you post a formal written response on HCSD’s website by September 30, 2020. We request that you outline the steps you have taken and will take to address the issues raised in this letter.

Finally, we hope that you, as well as all teachers, staff, and students of HCSD are staying safe and healthy; we thank you in advance for your time in working to address these critical issues.

Sincerely,

Rich Kubiak, Class of 2012
John Dagon Jr., Class of 2011
Bridget A. Kubiak, Class of 2006, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, and an HCSD school district taxpayer
Theresa Kubiak, Class of 1998, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, and an HCSD school district taxpayer
Diana Kubiak, parent of 7 HCSD graduates
Mackenzie Gardner, Class of 2019
Samin Mossavi
Cailey Taylor, Class of 2008
Vincent Capluzzi, Class of 2016
Adam Clark, Class of 2001
Maureen McAnany, Class of 2008
Erika Curtis, Class of 2016
Katlyn Kelly, Class of 2013
Ryan Carbone, Class of 2012
David Kubiak, Class of 2006
Chantré Milliner, Class of 2016
Kathleen Covell Jones, Class of 1964
Samuel Dessena, Class of 2015
Jared Raish, Class of 2012
Richard Dessena, Class of 1976, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Sally Dagon Head, Class of 1977, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer, employed by the HCSD as a speech & language therapist for 32 years (retired in 2014), currently a substitute teacher for HCSD
Eric Eason, Class of 2006
Hayley Drake, Class of 2016
Mary Deebs, Class of 2016
Alex Flint, Class of 2008
Lauryn Smith, Class of 2016
Rebecca Walsh, Class of 2012
Francesca Mason, Class of 2015
Jesse Bedford, Class of 2006
Alexie Palmer, Class of 2012
Megan Daniels, Class of 2016
Christina Stewart, Class of 2010
Alexis Boarder, Class of 2014
Bryan Swift, Class of 2007
Nicole Daniels, Class of 2011
Spencer Flint, Class of 2010
Kathryn Criss, Class of 1999, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Jim Racalto, Class of 2002
Justin Hammond, Class of 2007
Ashley Houston, Class of 2009, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Mackenzie Congdon, Class of 2018
Lindsay Spike, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Kali Ryan, Class of 2015
Joshua Tigner, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Caitlin DiPetta, Class of 2002
Nevaeh Clark, Class of 2024
Kristy Stephens, Class of 2010, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Thera Berry, Class of 2003, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Erin (Murphy) Masaba, Class of 2001
Marjoe Milliner, Class of 1992, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Daniel Brewer, Class of 1997
Athena Ackley, Class of 2009
Jacquelyn Young, Class of 2001, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Madysen Wessels, Class of 2021
Allison White, Class of 2007
Allegra Crist, Class of 2015
Rebecca Milliner, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Erica Boccia, Class of 2002, HCSD school district taxpayer
Kyle Haley, Class of 2011
MaryJo Burd, Class of 1994
Kathy Dessena, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Nikisha Ridgeway, Class of 1992
Kasey Marino, Class of 2016
Amanda Gillette, Class of 2016
Renata Trapp Zaldivar, Class of 1982, HCSD school district taxpayer
Karen Milliner, Class of 1978
Jenifer Ramirez, Class of 2003, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Ellen Milliner Nelson, Class of 1972
Gloria Gambino, Class of 2009
Matt Willcox, Class of 2009
Kaelyn Willcox, Class of 2012
Christina Kellogg, Class of 1994, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Meghan Franclemont, Class of 1998
Sam Dagon, Class of 2016
Colin Werfelman, HCSD school district taxpayer
Audrey Ellis, Class of 2002
Erin (Hogan) Lewis, Class of 2001
Sarah Vetter, Class of 2006, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Matthew Andrus, Class of 1997
Brittany N. Washburn, Class of 2004
Cassandra (Hill) Snyder, Class of 2012
Elizabeth Kelly, Class of 1990
Enel Dixon, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Lee Ann McGregor, Class of 2001, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Allie Argentieri, Class of 2010
Katie Labelle, Class of 2003
Lynda Koehler, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, An HCSD school district taxpayer
Sean Hall, Class of 2012
Rachel Chase, Class of 1992
Kurt Ballerstein, Class of 2009
Ashley Hall, Class of 2003
Calvin Milliner, Jr., Class of 1965
Adam Dwyer, Class of 2009
Damian Crowe, Class of 1991
Grace Weyand, Class of 2015
Brittany Ritenburg, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Heather Corcoran, Class of 2017
Justine Lockwood, Class of 2007
Crystal Cage (Thurber), Class of 2000, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Ashley Flint, Class of 2002, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Jess Cabic (Hay), Class of 2001, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Rhonda Mount-Page, Class of 1994, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Troy Denning II, Class of 2014
Kathryn Harrick, Class of 2017
Courtney (LeMar) Smith, Class of 2001
Danyelle Kozlowski, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Etonya Garries, Class of 2001
Janice Green, Class of 1992
Eric Davidson, Class of 2008
Michael Harrick, Class of 2019
Penny Becker, Class of 1976, HCSD school district taxpayer
Reilly Liberto, Class of 2017
Ismail Mehr, Class of 1991, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Sarah Kelly, Class of 2000, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Abigail Shick, Class of 2017
Michael Kilsdonk, Class of 2022
Sharie Miller, Class of 1988
Kristine Yanni, Class of 1996
Rick Kelly, Class of 1974
Leigha Smith, Class of 2018
Cindy Gardner, Class of 1991
Allison Dinwoodie, Class of 2014
Matthew Kilsdonk, Class of 2023
Ashley [last name omitted], Class of 2006
Raelynn Testani, Class of 2001
Debra O’Brien, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Laniqua Harmonson, Class of 2015
Christine Sweeney Goulet, Class of 1996
Sadiq Mehr, Class of 1996
Amy Button, HCSD school district taxpayer
Margaret Koehler, Class of 1991
Jared Johnson, Class of 2011
Nicole (Harmonson) Faulkner, Class of 1994, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Carrie Clemons-King, Class of 1991
Colleen (Clark) Amidon, Class of 2003, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Brittany Campese, Class of 2001
Chris Koehler, Class of 2007, HCSD school district taxpayer
Amanda Jones, HCSD school district taxpayer, Former HCSD Substitute teacher
Darnell Ridgeway, Class of 2006, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Mary Pieklo Stenson, Class of 2002
Jason Kaszynski, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Diana Haggerty, Class of 1998
Kailey Hamilton, Class of 2004, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Austin Miller, Class of 2017
Hildreth Rose Volonts, Class of 1977, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer, Retired Educator
Matthew Mauro, Class of 2014
Kendra Ridgeway, Class of 2006, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Jeff Gardner, Class of 1996
Sydney Livingston, Class of 2019
Tiffany Campese Insel, Class of 1996
Beth Johnson, HCSD school district taxpayer
Michael Mauro, Class of 2014
Traci Robinson, Class of 1994
Molly Liberto, Class of 1989, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Laura Tingley, Class of 2012
Julie Harrick Mooney, Class of 1991
Emily Mayorga, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Rushawna Mobiley, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Ericson Harris, HCSD school district taxpayer
Justine Passos, Class of 2015
Colleen Clair, Class of 2008, HCSD school district taxpayer
Brian Russell, Class of 1998
Tina Gillespie, Class of 1994, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Helena Bell, Class of 1994, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Phoebe Gillespie, Class of 2024
Gisselle Hernandez, Class of 2028
Chelsea Cramp, Class of 2012
Aaron Evans, Class of 1999, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Angela Clemons, Class of 1991
Loretta Harmonson Gay, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, grandparent of an HCSD student
Elizabeth Armeli, Class of 1969
Atoria Sabins, Class of 1997, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Carrie McBride, Class of 1991
Meaghan Costello, Class of 2009
Mackenzie Brooks, Class of 2017
Maria Dessena, Class of 1996
Barbara Prete-Maker, Class of 1977
Kaytie Hartman-Young, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Bronlyn Wassink, Class of 1998
Denise Crist (Doepke), Class of 1991
Kristen Koehler Montana, Class of 2000
Jay Daniels, Class of 2008
Margaret Cawley Paine, Class of 1990
Sally A. Allen, Class of 1970
Dominic Campese, Class of 1998
Abbigail Smith, Class of 2013, HCSD school district taxpayer
Adrianna Harmonson, Class of 2015
Sarah Horton Vogt, Class of 1989, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer, school paraprofessional
Teandra Robinson, Class of 2017
Dylan Moore, Class of 2012
Jennifer (Marion) Class, Class of 2005, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Nick Harmonson, Class of 2000
Lela Alexander, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Dominic Scavo, Class of 2012
Carli Corcoran, Class of 2015
Marcella (Holmes) Oathout, Class of 1991
Dayna Dixon, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, Class of 2000
Brenda Brown, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
David Butler, Class of 1999, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus
Brendan Eveland, Class of 2013
Edwina Sutton, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer, Sister/cousin/auntie of HCSD students
Megan Haley, Class of 2002, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Eric Carlin, Class of 2001
Christina Ingham Kuhn, Class of 1977, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Matt Stewart, Class of 2005
Patrick Feeley, Class of 1991
Tamika Scott, Class of 1995
Regina (Hall) Brewer, Class of 1986
Tim Koehler, Class of 2001
Bill Giese, Class of 2011
Theresa Murray, Class of 1979
Elizabeth Hover, Class of 2014
Rachel Shepard, Class of 2017
Lee Marcus, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and niece of multiple HCSD graduates, also former Hornell taxpayer
Martha Milliner, Class of 1976
Kari Schwartz, Class of 1994, former HCSD district taxpayer
Cynthia Ridgeway, parent of an HCSD student or alumnus, HCSD school district taxpayer
Rachel Kuras, Class of 1997
Jimmy Wachter, Class of 1982
Erin Vance, Class of 1992
Brandi Wright, HCSD school district taxpayer