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School task force working on racism report

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District’s new Task Force on Racism, Bias and Discrimination has been granted a time extension through May to develop a series of recommendations to help address any “explicit and implicit bias” in Middlebury-area schools.
The committee, led by Middlebury Union Middle School Principal Kristin Holsman-Francoeur and Middlebury College Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernandez, was originally slated to issue its final report in January.
The ACSD board formed the committee last September in the wake of reports of some Middlebury-area residents flying Confederate flags, which in turn elicited candid stories from several local residents of color about alleged racial profiling and their children, including relaying allegations of racial insensitivity and/or intolerance in public schools.
Kristin Holsman-Francoeur and Fernandez told the ACSD board on Jan. 22 the committee had met four times thus far, with additional gatherings scheduled in February and early March.
Those initial meetings included discussions about the committee charge, the issue of teaching tolerance, and a review of past testimony about alleged incidents of insensitivity and bigotry within the community. Members have also reviewed the ACSD’s policy on reporting and responding to complaints of bullying and harassment.
Holsman-Francouer said the panel has developed a first draft of recommendations. On Feb. 5, the group will meet with consultant Rebecca Haslam of Seed The Way LLC, which describes itself as “an educational consulting project focused on professional development, resources for anti-bias curricula and pedagogy, and equity literacy.”
Haslam will review the committee’s recommendations and advise members on additional supports and resources to help them fulfill their charge.
Fernandez said the committee will also consider ways for anti-bias recommendations to be incorporated within the International Baccalaureate curriculum to which the ACSD is transitioning.
Committee officials said they don’t expect their recommendations to have an impact on the 2018-2019 ACSD budget that will be decided on March 6 by voters in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
The only additional resource needed right now is time, according to Kristin Holsman-Francoeur.
 “We anticipate being done by the end of May, at the latest, but we do ask your patience to allow us more time to do this work,” Francoeur-Holsman said.
The ACSD board unanimously agreed to the time extension.
Other members of the ACSD Task Force on Racism, Bias and Discrimination include Farhad Khan, a Middlebury selectman, parent and local businessman; local resident Betty Kafumbe; Weybridge Elementary School Principal Christina Johnston; Elaine Orozco-Hammond, leader of the Middlebury-based BOLD Women’s Leadership Network; former ID-4 board member Karen Lefkoe; and Karen Guttentag, ‎associate dean for judicial affairs and student life at ‎Middlebury College.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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