MH School District Promises Change

Recent Black Lives Matter protests have sparked discussion among students regarding their school’s involvement in promoting an inclusive educational experience. Nationwide, high-schoolers are fighting so that all voices are heard in every American classroom. In response, district leaders are re-evaluating the content in their curricula and how they tackle racial injustice. In the past week, the Morris Hills Regional District has responded to the pressing question of, how can our high schools participate in promoting racial dialogue in classrooms?

On June 12th, a letter was sent to parents and students from the superintendent, Mr. Jencarelli, and principals Dr. Toriello and Mr. MacNaughton. The letter addressed the tough conversations about systemic racism and social injustice taking place and what steps the Morris Hills Regional District is taking to address these concerns.  As directly stated in the message, the district had “received correspondences from students, parents, community members, alumni, and staff members expressing their thoughts and opinions on the state of our nation.” Mr. Jencarelli acknowledged these concerns and went on to state, “Racism has absolutely no place in our communities. We can and must do better.”

Within the document, it is assured that steps will be taken to enforce inclusivity and diversity. These actions include, but are not limited to, providing professional development on “culturally responsive teaching,” conducting a “full curriculum audit,” and expanding district committees to better handle issues of “equity and social justice.” Morris Hills and Knolls High Schools intend to coordinate with Dr. Angelica L. Allen-McMillan, the County Superintendent of Schools, to secure resources to address topics concerning social injustice, racism, and civil rights. 

Mrs. Toriello, Director of Instructional Services for Language Arts, and Mrs. Beck, Supervisor of Instructional Services for Social Studies, offered more insight as to what steps their departments will take to achieve these goals. They expressed that they will ensure the inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives into the current curriculum to foster awareness and acceptance among the student population. 

Multiculturalism, support for the presence of many distinct cultural or ethnic groups, is one of their concerns. A promise from the letter, as mentioned earlier, Mrs. Toriello and Mrs. Beck aspires to promote “culturally responsive” instruction. According to the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST), “cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of your own culture as well as those from other cultures.” Culturally responsive and collaborative instruction will fulfill the departments’ effort to “prepare students to thrive in a diverse world.” 

Mrs. Toriello and Mrs. Beck added that the district is partnering with Teaching Tolerance, a branch of the Southern Law Poverty Center. Teaching Tolerance provides educators with free resources that include lessons, webinars, grants, podcasts, policy guides, and much more. The mission is to “help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse society,” according to their website, 

The Morris Hills District will be utilizing the program “Teaching Tolerance” to provide professional development for all teachers. Mrs. Toriello and Mrs. Beck explained, “Staff members will participate in workshops that provide opportunities to develop skills for engaging in and facilitating critical discussions in the classroom in order to support and sustain diversity, equity, and justice.”

While this call to action is in progress, students should be on the lookout for guaranteed changes to the school’s curriculum in the upcoming year. With the support of the principals and faculty, there is hope that positive changes can be made for the betterment of Morris Hills and Morris Knolls High Schools. We are MH STRONG when all voices are heard.