Letter to the Lynbrook/East Rockaway Herald Editor (April 28- May 4)


We must combat racism

To the Editor:

Re: “School board mulling solutions to discrimination claims" (April 21-27): Thank you for the article on the April East Rockaway Board of Education meeting.

The letter I read was not mine. It was on behalf of Theresa Devlin. She has four children, two of whom attended the school district through graduation, and two of whom are now enrolled in public schools in Florida. She made the decision to relocate after the racism her younger two children endured during their short few years in the district.

I would also like to add that the diversity policy Trustee Dom Vulpis referred to at the meeting is based on the sample approved by the New York State School Boards Association. I’m happy that we’re one of the first districts on Long Island to adopt a policy from this NYSSBA sample. The East Rockaway school board removed some of the more strongly worded and important concepts, like “white privilege” and “systemic racism.”

I’m curious about how decisions are made to follow through on this policy, which district community members are included when choosing speakers (as Mr. Vulpis highlighted in his comments), how information is presented to faculty, and the oversight thereafter. I have emailed the board asking these questions.

Obviously, we need additional modifications to the policy. Superintendent Lisa Ruiz’s genuine and heartfelt apology to Lucy Pozo, and many student speakers, made that clear. It was a shame that Mr. Vulpis needed to step out of the room at that moment. Ruiz’s apology, if respected, will guide our district toward a path of opportunity and connection, two of the pillars introduced by the first Strategic Planning Committee under Ruiz’s charge.

I am one of many members of East Rockaway for Racial Justice, a multiracial coalition of residents committed to advancing racial justice in our community. We work with other groups to make Long Island more inclusive and to promote anti-racism efforts.

Our group is looking forward to working with administrators to modify the diversity policy to ensure that it will reflect our diverse student population and heal our divided community. We are so grateful we have a group of administrators in our district, recommended by Ruiz, who will listen, plan and take action. Her retirement is around the corner, but if we work together, we can ensure that her legacy of leadership, commitment and best practices will continue in the school district.

Michelle Gamache, East Rockaway