Lawrence schools receive grant to hold community conversations

Lawrence Township Public Schools Administrative and Board Offices

Buoyed by the success of a recent community conversation on equity in education and with a $10,000 grant in hand, Lawrence Township school district officials are planning to hold additional conversations with parents and township residents.

The Lawrence Township Education Foundation presented the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education with a check for $10,000 for anti-bias and anti-racist education. The grant was funded by Church & Dwight Co., Inc.

The grant proposal was written by Andrew Zuckerman, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Karen Faiman, the executive director of the nonprofit Lawrence Township Education Foundation.

School district officials worked with consultants Val Brown and Rebekah Cordova to conduct a presentation on equity and related issues last spring. It was a successful event, Faiman said, and it became evident from community feedback that the district needed to hold additional community conversations.

That’s why Zuckerman and Faiman applied to Church & Dwight Co., Inc. for a grant to enable the school district to hold three more community conversations. The conversations will be guided by professional consultants and school district personnel.

The community conversations will increase the community’s engagement in – and understanding of – the equity work that is being done in the school district, Faiman said. The district has historically worked to provide a school community that is free from hate, she said.

Since 2017, the district has been focused on reaching new equity goals. School district officials hired Brown and Cordova to provide professional development to help the staff respond to issues of inequity and to contribute to district where all students and adults can thrive, Faiman said.

But for it to be successful, the entire Lawrence Township Public Schools community must join together in growing and learning through reading and – most importantly – through conversation, Faiman said. A vital step is to engage in conversation with parents and family members, not just the students, she said.

“In order to attain true educational equity, we must be prepared to talk about issues of race. These conversations must include the greater Lawrence Township community,” Faiman said.

“With equity work in education, it is important to be transparent with all stakeholders, including the community. This transparency is achieved through continual communication and open dialogue,” she said.

The Lawrence Township Education Foundation has always focused on funding initiatives that address equity and inclusion, Faiman said. It has become a priority as the United States seeks to address systemic racism and longstanding educational inequities, she said.