19 thoughts on “Board of Ed Poised To Remove ‘DEI’ from School District’s Goals and Objectives

  1. A balanced and thorough article, providing enough context to challenge the presumptions of hyper partisanship, caricatures, and quickness to outrage that some have responded with. Showing this is not solely a partisan issue, Erica Schwedel raises a thoughtful point in saying, “I do think the words really matter here and as we talk about this and as we re-craft the language that we want to use, I think we as a Board need to get away from using the term ‘DEI’ for that reason and decide what we call this objective. Is it valuing differences? Is it inclusiveness?” The questions she poses are largely answered in the language that has already been supported by all BOE members: “NCPS [New Canaan Public Schools] will strive to deepen students’ understanding of a range of differences among people. NCPS will work to foster empathy and respect for all and to celebrate the unique and varied contributions each of us makes.” That goal, along with some decent parenting, goes a long way.

  2. Mike, Thank you very much for the article. You obviously watched this meeting, likely numerous times, and apparently saw what many apparently have not. The BOE is NOT attempting to remove all “DEI” initiatives (Goal #4 has not been removed), despite what recent comments would lead you to believe. I encourage people to take the time to watch the meeting and discussion instead of residing in a bubble of moral outrage. You are not contributing to a constructive path forward for our children if you are unwilling to be fully informed.

    • Why, at this time, in this politicized time, with this highly politicized RTC and BOE even bother with changing the DEI initiatives AT ALL if NOT to upset the system.
      This BOE at THIS time was elected to do just this.
      Please do not stand there and attempt to duck, cover and manipulate why this is being done or to pretend it is insignificant and inconsequential.
      There may be much to be done regarding Math and Science to secure our top footing, but my guess is DEI issues could likely have waited another few years,
      We are fully informed.

      • The term DEI has become a political lightening rod for many who have different interpretations of what it entails. However, no matter what your political affiliation, or leaning, people are allowed to have opinions and concerns about how and what their children are taught. These concerns should be understood and respected just as DEI advocates should be heard in an open and objective forum. Those who support DEI initiatives (in whatever form that may take) are not instantly vilified for politicizing our education simply because they have a different view. This does not move us forward and only divides us further.
        Furthermore, as a new member of the RTC I can assure you that I have not heard of a secret political agenda to take over our schools or some strategy to push a national agenda on our town (of course as a minority maybe they are doing it after I leave the room, although I have to say the Vice Chairman of the RTC is also a minority so these conspirators must really be burning the midnight oil). Frankly, talk of national politics seldom enters our conversations and members of the RTC likely have differing opinions on many national issues. So, I can tell you, despite your assumptions and accusations that I do not see this as a political issue, just differing opinions on how to best educate and raise our children. It is quite simply only a political issue because you choose to make it so. As the saying goes from our childhoods “He who Smelt it, Dealt it”.
        As for being fully informed. I was trying to give commentors the benefit of the doubt in their claims that the DEI initiative is simply being removed from BOE goals. If you have truly watched and heard the BOE discussion and continue to make that claim, then you are at best misleading and intellectually dishonest. Again, Goal #4 very much still exists and although we can debate the points, as the BOE has, any claim that this initiative has been removed is factually false.
        Let’s try and do better for our kids and show them that accusations and finger pointing is no way to solve problems.

  3. I appreciate your effort to seem reasonable, and I do think reasonableness is what Erica is trying to promote with her statement. However, BOE goals should be about more than platitudes. It’s all well and fine to say we can all agree its good to be nice people and to welcome each other and our differences. But in order to address a weakness, and truly strive to be better, it’s important to include action steps as well. Erica also backed that approach by expressing support for language about the district seeking expert advice around improving NCPS’ efforts in this area . What so many of us object to is the attitude expressed by Dan Bennet when he said “I would rather agree to the first two sentences and then you know pump it out to teachers, have them remind the kids of this and we’re good to go”. There are a huge number of people in New Canaan who feel that addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion requires way more time and thoughtfulness than that. We don’t all agree on exactly what the initiative should be, but we do agree it’s important to learn more about how to effectively address this subject in New Canaan. Dan Bennett, Phil Hogan, and Julie Toal refuse to address the concerns of a very large group of parents, students, and community members and instead, along with you, have signed onto the following not so “reasonable” or “non-partisan” message from the RTC:

    Dear New Canaan Republicans,

    The New Canaan RTC, like most of you, is appalled with the video of Cos Cob School Assistant Principal boasting of his discriminatory and politically motivated hiring practices. This on the same day when the CT Commissioner of Education announced that only 4 in 10 elementary and middle school students met proficiency standards in math in 2021; 89% of our 195 school districts regressed last year.


    We have known for too long that the focus of our schools has moved far afield from the academic rigor we need them to provide, and instead become incubators of divisive politics and radically progressive agendas.

    It is time to shine light on our school administrators and get CRT, DEI and party politics out of our schools. Bravo to our own BOE for their laser focus on achieving a best in class education for New Canaan’s kids. All of Connecticut deserves the same.

    We need all Republicans to come and support our #NewCanaanBOE as they stand strong in defense of our students and curriculum. Join them at the next BOE meeting this Wednesday 9/7, 7pm at NCHS.


    Members of the New Canaan RTC

      • Yes, the RTC made a political statement. Shocking, I know. Having become a member of the RTC in the last month I will try to maintain my heretofore vice-like grip of all communications going forward. The DTC and Row A for the BOE never made anything but open-minded, thoughtful statements, so it would be impossible for you to “co-sign” such things as calling most of the Republican candidates in the last election “vile, horrible, Q-Anon adjacent people” (words of your former DTC chair) or conflating them with January 6th rioters as the DTC has. How about just owning that this whole subject is ripe for being completely taken out of context, and examining why instead of presuming someone is morally deficient if they have a different viewpoint than you? Some of that may actually be based on valid assumptions from their own life. Such as many, if not most, of DEI “experts” seem to have a politicized agenda far different than what is constructive for any child that doesn’t fully understand nuance or is able to think critically and challenge presumptions because they are too young. A couple of examples from neighboring towns: 1) Darien’s DEI expert (hired for $45,000 of taxpayer money) wrote an essay titled “Grading is Racist, Capitalist, and Exploitative.” Seems a bit extreme, no? 2) Here’s Fairfield’s DEI expert’s “signing off” on white people: https://www.ctinsider.com/fairfield/article/Fairfield-Schools-diversity-director-called-17351811.php. Now someone can say, that there’s some expert out that doesn’t have a politicized agenda and we need to hire that person. To which I would respond that the agreed upon statement below from all BOE members, along with hoped for decent parenting, and well over $100 million in total taxpayer funding to the BOE (including psychologists, school counselors, and social workers capable of implementing any needed changes from a school climate survey) annually should do the trick.

        “NCPS [New Canaan Public Schools] will strive to deepen students’ understanding of a range of differences among people. NCPS will work to foster empathy and respect for all and to celebrate the unique and varied contributions each of us makes.”

        • James- that’s a seriously outsized reaction. A personal post from the former head of the DTC 2 years ago has nothing to do with me. Every time you try to sound like a reasonable moderate I will call you on it. And I’m sure you will squeal every time too.

          • Jenn, just sticking to facts — which I know is not your strong suit — the Facebook post from the DTC Chair was around a year ago (not 2 years ag0) and James Yao and I were not part of the email distribution you referenced, though I think it had a lot of valid points.

            As for my stances on things, whether it be keeping spending under control, unmasking kids, better school start times for all kids instead of just some, local control, etc., I could truly care less what your reaction is other than to serve as a guidepost for how the left wing thinks about an issue. Please do call me out. I look forward to it…along with squealing more, whatever that means.

          • James, what the former DTC president said in her Facebook post last summer was absolutely unhinged. I was repulsed and embarrassed by it, as was everyone I know, regardless of their political leanings. But if we’re going to start dredging up offensive statements made in the name of hyperpartisanship in this town, I think we’d HAVE to mention the racist letter delivered in the middle of the night to peoples’ mailboxes last fall, right? That was a pretty low moment for rational thought in this town, right?

            That whole election cycle felt so rabid and inelegant, it turned me back into an unaffiliated voter.

            It would better serve our community to acknowledge the fact that the very hyper-partisanship you claim to wish to keep out of the schools has infected every single corner of this town, including the faux-moderateness of your comment above. It’s fine to be a profligate, daily flag carrier for either side, but let’s please not try and convince anyone that it comes from a neutral or emotionless place. Nobody in this town is foolish enough to think that the DEI conversation is neutral, rational, or evidence-based. It’s just the latest local rejection of expertise, because, being rich people, we just *know* better. Sure seems straight out of the MAGA playbook to me.

        • James B: The issue is not that the RTC issued a political statement, but that the tone and timing of the statement were clearly geared to divide and politicize our BOE. The majority of our town does not want to see partisanship in our BOE, while the Sept 2 mailer promotes it.

          How is our BOE supposed to work collaboratively and productively together when, one week into the school year, the RTC is commanding its members to “stand strong” against things?

          If I was one of the Republican members of the BOE, I would be taking the RTC to task for diluting my ability to work productively with my peers and I would be asking them to please stay out of BOE deliberations. Mr. Butterfield was correct in saying that the RNC mailer has inadvertently poisoned the well about some Republican members’ priorities and motivations.

          At the end of the day parents want compromise and a functioning, collaborative BOE. The RTC mailer did not move us closer to the goal.

          • Ms. Nagle, It looks like you might not be aware that three BOE members are also on the RTC – Mr. Bennett, Mr. Hogan and Ms. Toal.

  4. The Board of Education’s debate over DEI (diversity, education, and inclusion) has sparked concern that the dark hyper-partisanship of national politics has infected Town government, making it impossible to come together to resolve important problems. I don’t believe that.

    While Republican and Democrat BOE members have taken different sides on a proposal to seek advice from DEI experts, they all agree on the following words that should make all of us proud: “NCPS will strive to deepen students’ understanding of a range of differences among people. NCPS will work to foster empathy and respect for all and to celebrate the unique and varied contributions each of us makes.”

    The BOE is entirely capable of navigating the next steps–identifying specific deficits and developing a plan to correct what can be corrected without undermining what works in our schools. All it will take is for members to accept the “range of differences” in their colleagues’ opinions.

    Democrats need to accept the value of crafting unique solutions for New Canaan even if that means avoiding terms that some believe have adverse connotations. What’s important is helping students, not the words we use to get there.

    Republicans need to accept that the Board must become knowledgeable about best practices and should begin that learning expeditiously.

    Every BOE member is sincerely committed to making the right decisions for students and none wants to foster controversy that would cast New Canaan and our schools in a poor light. That’s why I’m confident they will work this out.

    In an unfortunate distraction, last Friday the Republican Town Committee sent an email that inflamed the DEI debate to score political points. That’s not a cardinal sin, although in my experience the RTC focuses on elections and doesn’t interfere in the governmental process. Perhaps that’s because they don’t do it well. Laughably the RTC email, which clearly injects party politics into our schools, proclaims that it’s time to keep party politics out of our schools.

    The letter’s other consequence is to cast doubt on the priorities of the three members who serve on both the RTC and the BOE. Which role is preeminent, education or getting politicians elected? I’m sure the answer is education, but it would be prudent for them to resign from the RTC to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

    Notwithstanding this distraction, I have every confidence that the BOE will come together find the right way to celebrate and protect students with differences.

    I’m a Republican member of the New Canaan Town Council but I don’t claim that my opinions represent the view of my colleagues.

  5. What Tom said. The three BOE members who argued for funding (and/or for the board to learn more) bent over backwards to rewrite the goals to accommodate the Republicans’ allergy to specific words, while keeping the same intent and actionable steps. But it doesn’t seem to be about just the words after all, since they also don’t seem to want to take any actions. I hope the R’s will at least agree to learn more and make an evidence-based decision. A bipartisan BOE added these goals for a reason and the new BOE members flippantly cancelled them, not for any specific or evidence-based reason, or to do what is best for students, but because of their personal desire to fight a culture war; they are too inexperienced with our schools to understand that they are tilting at windmills. these decisions and the RTC’s baseless anti-teacher screeds are not harmless – what does it do to our teacher morale when they are accused of doing nefarious things, when they have to worry that if they use the word inclusive it will get back to the BOE? One of the most important things to me is that the people with whom my children spend most of their day enjoy going to work, feel respected and valued and are trusted to do their job professionally and make decisions without having to look over their shoulders. All the same things any of us want in a career. Bc their wellbeing will directly impact the education my child receives and the environment where he spends his days. This invented war can do real harm to the NCPS community and I don’t think that’s what any board member wants.

    • Karen, thank you for this viewpoint. I agree with most of what you’ve said, especially the unfortunate way our teachers are being second-guessed and grossly devalued. The next item on the chopping block for our BOE is curriculum. Heaven help us. Regarding the removal of the words Diversity, Equity, Inclusion from our district goals… that should never have been suggested in the first place, especially without consulting those of us in the community for whom DEI hits closest to home. Capitulating to removing those key words lends credence to the false assertion made by the far right that DEI is political, when in fact it’s not. That was a huge decision – and one that I would argue had no right being made in a vacuum.

    • Karen, I am glad you are recognizing the importance and value our teachers provide. I am also happy to hear that you value their opinions and input. However, I do want to point out that during the school start time debate you made it very clear that teachers’ perspectives should not be considered, since they are not taxpayers. You stated in a NewCanaanite comment on May 4th 2021 “People keep saying this option was the least popular in the surveys… Only when you include teachers, who are 90+% opposed to any change, do you get the skewed result you keep describing.”. You seem to make it quite clear that their opinions are creating some “skew”, that should be discounted or ignored. This was my response to your comment “In making the reference (i.e. taxpayers) it implies that the exceptional staff that teach and nurture our children everyday are not integral parts of our children’s lives, but mere cogs in a wheel. Perhaps I am naïve but I very much consider them partners in our children’s upbringing, in the few years that my children have attended our schools I have seen the dedication and effort they put in day in and day out. They don’t punch a clock, often working before and well past the school day. However, if you still view them as mere widget builders consider this, a happy employee is a productive and engaged employee. Also, an employee who feels that they are valued and considered makes better products (better children in our case). So, any way you see our teachers, partners (as I do) or cogs it makes sense to value their feedback.”. I have and always will consider and value teacher concerns in shaping our children’s education. As was the case with start times, I continue to encourage surveys and feedback from stakeholders, teachers included (I believe I recall a school climate survey being discussed, but honestly not sure who was included and if we can see the results).
      If we are going to tackle this complex issue, we need honest constructive input from all parties. I have respect for your past efforts and a number of people who have been on opposing sides of issues. Many seem to be intelligent well-intentioned parents and if we work together, we can move the ball forward. I am confident that you would find we are not as far apart on this and many issues as some would think from the vitriol that is being spewed around town.

  6. When we moved to New Canaan eight years ago for the lovely town and outstanding schools, I was concerned about New Canaan’s minimal racial diversity. After my daughter returned from a playdate to ask why our house didn’t have an elevator or tennis court or swimming pool, I also began worrying that the spectrum of our town’s economic diversity spanned the well-off to the ultra-rich.

    We live in a bubble of privilege unrepresentative of our wider world. Surrounded by sameness and racial/economic homogeneity, our children can struggle to understand – let alone appreciate – those who don’t look and dress as they do. Some even mistreat the few who look different. For example, the wonderful daughter of an Indian family we know was regularly bullied on her middle school bus.

    Diversity is a true blessing. In graduate school, I met my wife (from China) while sharing a house with students from Turkey and Switzerland whose girlfriends were from Egypt and Finland. We had incredible dinner parties where I was the only American in my house. We lack this in New Canaan, as did my hometown of Wayland, MA, a wonderful town much like New Canaan but also lacking in diversity. My parochialism was unmasked by a checkout clerk while studying a year in London. She told me, “I love your accent!” I had never before imagined myself as having an accent. That’s something OTHER people had.

    As editorialist John Breunig recently wrote, “You can keep DEI out of New Canaan, but that won’t prepare its students for life outside the town’s borders.” Despite our wealth and many fabulous teachers, we suffer from a diversity deficit. I thank our schools and teachers for helping our students see beyond themselves to better understand the world beyond New Canaan and to better appreciate the diversity our town does enjoy.

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