The Central Jersey Consortium for Excellence and Equity (CJCEE) kicked off their second year at Monmouth University’s Magill Commons. The full day session, “I Hate Black People and Other Truths: Engaging All Students in a Welcoming School Climate,” was presented by Dr. Shelia Witherspoon, school counseling adjunct at Jersey City University and Cappella University.
According to Witherspoon, “All people maintain biases and prejudices towards people of different colors, cultures, religion, genders, and sexual orientation.” She presented the history of pervasive racism and hate toward black African Americans, discussing how these attitudes continue to affect academic, career, and personal/social aspects of students.
Dr. Tina Paone, associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, School Counseling, and Special Education at Monmouth University, said that the topic, all too often thought of but not said aloud, led to some intense discussion. “Dr. Witherspoon utilized her own experiences as a black woman to poignantly illustrate examples of how small situations left a profound impact on her own life,” said Paone.
Participants also examined strategies to address situational bias and enhance school climate. Raritan High School Principal William Smith said that the workshop “gave us the opportunity to begin or continue a discussion of how race and background affects students every day.”
“This was an impactful experience,” said Mr. Dan Alston, assistant principal of Bayshore Middle School in Middletown. “As an educational leader, father, and husband, I have a greater sense of mission of where we are, where we need to go.”
“It forced participants to be honest with themselves and their school communities,” said Jim Stefankiewicz, superintendent of Red Bank Regional High School. “It is important to treat kids fairly and understand where they are coming from.”
“Even the subtlest things can be perceived as negative,” said Paone. “That impact in turn can cause students to feel that their school climate is non-inviting.”
The CJCEE is an evolving collaboration of administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and elementary and secondary students that are collectively committed to learning and working together to enhance the achievement and well-being of all students, as well as increasing the academic performance, engagement, and future success of traditionally underachieving students.
CJCEE focuses on inter-district collaboration and shared learning for continuous improvement in eliminating the disparities in achievement and school engagement among students. Membership districts for 2013-2014 currently include Eatontown Public Schools; Hazlet Township Public Schools; Holmdel Township Public Schools; Keyport School District; Long Branch Public Schools; Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District; Middletown Township Public Schools; Red Bank Charter School; Red Bank Regional High School District; and Union Beach School District.
The next session is “Identifying and Attacking Inequity: Working to Close Racial, Gendered, and Socioeconomic Achievement Gaps” on Monday, October 21, 2013, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Monmouth University’s Magill Commons Dining Room. It will be facilitated by Dr. Krista Malott, associate professor, Education and Counseling at Villanova University.
For more information, contact Monmouth University School of Education at CJCEE@monmouth.edu or 732-571-7518.