Administrative role in conversations
June 1, 2022
Brookline’s Senior Director of Equity Jenee Uttaro handles professional development around anti-racism and anti-bias in all of Brookline’s public schools. She said she works to expose fundamental inequities in Brookline’s public systems. Uttaro said she believes that even though students are right to be skeptical about the community response to incidents of prejudice, there is a lot of care from white educators towards these issues.
“There’s definitely stuff happening at a higher level that students don’t see. That is absolutely the case. But, I do agree in many ways that there should be and could be and must be a better and greater response,” Uttaro said “I would characterize the white response as one that is caring, but one not fully confident about how to act or what to do.”
Uttaro also expressed disappointment at this lack of confidence. She explained that equity leaders have made resources available for teachers for a long time. While there is no required DEI training in becoming a Brookline educator, many staff members and administrators have been involved in plans to integrate race into the curricula.
“Years ago the high school started this initiative called ‘Identity Curriculum,’ Whether in Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Math, every discipline in school was finding ways to use their standing curriculum to integrate identity, anti-bias, equity,” Uttaro said “Dean Poon is one of the people who helped begin with that, and there are a whole bunch of other teachers who worked on this before the pandemic”.
According to Uttaro there hasn’t been any further development of the Identity Curriculum this year.
Administrative action on racial injustice has been the cause of student protest. Students organized a walk out on March 16 protesting racist videos from this year as well as the response from deans that involved pulling Black students out of their classes to discuss the videos.
Malcolm Cawthorne, the high school METCO Coordinator, said that there is a particular issue in the nature of certain fast-paced classes, where discussions on race are not prioritized.
“Obviously, this is a general AP issue. There are classes where it’s very hard to pause a day’s worth of content because they’re up against deadlines. But I still think these conversations should happen, and there needs to be more support from the people that run this district to allow those conversations to happen under such circumstances,” Cawthorne said.