The goal of a three-year “Raising Multicultural Kids” program, set to launch at the Jacobs School, is to foster racial equity and the concept of “cultural competency” through school- and community-based programs.
Cultural competency relates to building understanding and relationships, being respectful and open to different cultural perspectives, and working toward equal opportunity for all.
Hull Public Schools Director of Student Services Kristen Ryan and Jacobs Principal Christine Cappadona outlined the district’s new partnership with the program, referred to as RMK, at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting.
Discussions that had taken place within the Anti Racism Committee had prompted Ryan to contact RMK to explore the possibility of implementing that program in Hull, according to School Superintendent Judith Kuehn.
RMK was founded in 2019 within the Easton Public Schools system following the occurrence of racial incidents. While such bias-related events are a nationwide issue and not unique to Easton, a group of parents decided to take steps to bring about positive change in the Easton school system and in the overall community.
RMK’s mission is to ensure that children gain greater self-esteem and respect for others; see themselves modeled in the curriculum, teachers, and in leadership roles; and achieve an understanding of the harmful impact of exclusion and racism.
“When students have teachers who look like them, they feel more connected” and tend to do better in school, Ryan said. “In addition, the omission of teachers of color propagates stereotypes among white students.”
The program also works to ensure that children and their families are supported after a racial incident occurs.
Another component is helping communities learn language and skills that enable them to engage in productive conversations about race and racism. The program also strives to educate members of a community in what it hopes will be “a more inclusive and personal way than ever before” and help them feel “supported and empowered to be agents of change.”
With about 90 percent of Massachusetts teachers being white, RMK engages with school districts to help diversify the teacher demographic through recruiting, training, and supporting multiracial college student teachers to spend time in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms – now including the Hull Public Schools.
“We’re working with Bridgewater State University, Stonehill College, and other schools” to accomplish those goals, Ryan said. “When these student teachers are looking for jobs post-graduation, they will have an established relationship with our school district.”
In that setting, students read books on diversity and participate in conversations about race, with the student teachers serving as role models and creating lesson plans. This orientation gives them an opportunity to explore teaching as a possible career.
School Committee member Kyle Conley is “really excited and proud that we’re taking this step in our schools. However, this is a drop in a very big bucket, and I would love for all of us to hold ourselves accountable to having ongoing discussions.”
Member Jennifer Fleming is also in full support of the program. “We really need this at the country and local level, starting with our youngest students to help stem innate biases,” she said. “We’ll be creating a group of future leaders who will be able to educate their families and their peers.”
Chair David Twombly is hopeful that the HPS will be able to recruit student teachers who will want to work in the Hull school system once they graduate from college.