Teaneck Commemorates Its Historic Role in School Desegregation

In a recent Teaneck School Board meeting, the focal point of the discussion was a collaborative endeavor between the board and the town council. The joint project aims to install a commemorative plaque at Bryant School, paying tribute to Teaneck’s distinction as the first U.S. school district to voluntarily desegregate without legislation. This initiative sparked a lively discourse among the board members, and even though it touched upon practical matters such as the plaque’s location, language, and cost, it ultimately underlined the significant weight of the local community’s history.

School Board President Sebastian Rodriguez provided additional context: “This was presented to the board as an opportunity to, to kind of never forget the fact that Teaneck was the first and I believe the only district in the United States that decided to desegregate the schools without any legislation.”

In light of the cooperative nature of the project, the estimated $7,500 expense of the plaque will be shared between the school board and the town council. The board member cited, “Sharing the cost also means sharing the procedure for making decisions. So with regard to say, for example, the location, I’m going to assume in supporting this vote that there will continue to be collaboration as we come to a decision about the language and the location.” This cooperation signals a collegial approach, underscored by board member Dr. Dennis Klein’s comment, “this is an opportunity for the council and the board to be working together.”

The plaque’s proposed location and language sparked dynamic exchanges among board members. Williams insisted, “if we’re going to finance it, we should at least have a say” on the plaque’s language, advocating for additions that would emphasize hope for future generations. As for the plaque’s location, some members favored high-visibility areas like the front of the building near the flagpole, while others proposed more frequented spots within the school to guarantee the plaque’s visibility and interaction.

The precise wording of the plaque was not unanimously agreed upon, and the board members indicated that they might propose changes to the language. The Historical Society representative appeared to prefer the original wording. However, the ultimate decision on the language lies with the school board, with the expectation of further discussion and possible adjustments.

Beyond the plaque discussion, the meeting addressed the upcoming academic year’s preparations, including an initiative titled “Achieve the Promise”. Superintendent Dr. Andre Spencer shared the campaign details, aimed at demonstrating readiness for the new school year and ensuring clear understanding among all stakeholders. Furthermore, the board confirmed plans for a multilingual parent conference on August 26th, focusing on key topics like literacy, stress management, mental health, and restorative practices.

Additionally, concerns about potential virtual instruction and the provision for special education services in the post-pandemic environment were raised. The meeting discussed the need for professional development for teachers in a virtual environment, attendance policies, and bilingual instruction to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking students.

The board also introduced three new staff members and discussed personnel matters. It was announced that Dr. Marshall Scott is the new Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Apollon is the new Director of Human Resources, and Ms. Le is the new Director of Partnerships, Outreach, and Special Projects.

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