Building Empathy, Equity and Excellence!

At the December Community Education Council 31 meeting, I spoke about our work revolving around Empathy, Equity and Excellence throughout the district. This work centers on diving deep in discussions about those often difficult and uncomfortable topics involving race, gender, and socio-economic status. These conversations can have us reflect on ingrained perceptions we may have from past experiences and relationships.

The work our District Leadership Team and community partners are engaging in is something that will foster collaboration and capacity building. Superintendent Anthony Lodico has led our efforts in partnership with Betsy Dubovsky, Executive Director of The Staten Island Foundation in securing over $800,000 in grant funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and other community partners for “Achieving Transformational Educational Outcomes.”

Staten Island District 31 was one of several school districts from across the nation competing for this grant, eventually beating out 2 other finalists from California. This work will partner our Staten Island District 31 Educators and Community members with the consulting firm FSG. FSG will develop a training and interactive deep analysis plan incorporating their “Systems Thinking” framework.

“Systems Thinking is not ‘thinking about a system.’ Instead, Systems Thinking is a framework and set of tools that help people observe and understand the interdependencies that exist within a complex system and focus on higher-leverage change strategies. It helps individuals consider the connections between inner (personal mental models) and outer (dynamics between stakeholders) change; elevate the importance of transforming relationships within a system; examine how the structure generates the behavior observed, and shift attention from reactive activity to addressing deeper sources of problems.” – FSG

This work will consist of community-member working groups, leadership training sessions and community engagement to help build on student outcomes regardless of race, gender or economic conditions.

District 31 is honored to be awarded this competitive grant opportunity. This will allow our District to build upon our work, increasing Empathy, Equity and Excellence in our school community. Our District was already engaged in work that aligned with the objectives of the Carnegie grant, incorporating the $150,000 Chancellor Carmen Farina provided to support our work focused on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

In October, Superintendent Anthony Lodico chaired our first meeting of the Empathy, Equity and Excellence working group. The group is comprised of students, educators, parents and community members. Matthew Lattimer, Conciliation Specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice is facilitating the discussion for the group.

This monumental work will expand from the planning committee and working group to a 3-day workshop in late January into February. The workshop will bring together approximately 75 Staten Island stakeholders representing parents, students, teachers, principals, and community and faith-based organizations. The workshop will focus on promoting opportunities for Pre-K through grade 12 students in our community. The event will be co-led by facilitators from FSG, PolicyLink and the Systems Leadership Institute, three nationally recognized organizations that will help our community dig into key aspects of leadership development and creating sustainable change.

We are looking forward to building on this exciting work!

Click on the links below to learn more about the initiatives.

Carnegie Corporation of New York


Staten Island Foundation

My Brother’s Keeper Grant for Family and Community Engagement – District 31

By Community Education Council 31 President Michael Reilly.