More than 30 parents, students, teachers and administrators attended the Unity in Our Community event at Carmel High School on Oct. 25, to discuss ways to end divisions within the school district and bring residents together as “One Carmel.”
“Clearly, we are in a place where we are ripe for change,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Joseph McGrath. “Just coming together like this makes our community stronger. Now, it is up to us to convert ideas into a strategic action plan.”
The district has faced harsh criticism following a number of events this year that appear to have been fueled by racism, including the circulation of TikTok videos that depicted a school shooting that targeted minorities, as well as the discovery of swastikas on school property – in addition to reports by students who claim to have been bullied at school.
Led by Matt Latimer, the lead conciliation specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Service, the event featured discussions about Carmel’s progress over the past few months.
Latimer moderated the district’s four Dialogue on Race events held in April and May, in which participants produced ideas to support unity in the community. Many of those ideas, such as hiring staff to reflect Carmel’s diverse student body and expanding the curriculum to include a wider breadth of viewpoints, have been incorporated into the District Strategic Plan.
“This district has worked hard, and you have achieved a lot,” said Latimer. “Let’s talk about other areas you would like to address.”
The participants broke into three groups to look into three different topics: curriculum and instruction, the culture of the schools, and creating a profile of the Carmel graduate and brainstorming ideas for a seventh “C” (culture) to add to the qualities that make up Carmel’s existing graduate profile of “6Cs” – critical thinking, citizenship, compassion, creativity, collaboration and communication.
“I am glad the district is holding meetings like this,” said parent Ivon Silva. “My own children have almost finished high school. I came to this meeting because I want to see things improve for the next group of kids.”
A second Unity in the Community event was held Nov. 2, and focused on exploring the symbols of language and hate.