To the Editor,
The Rye Neck student requirement to pay $350 per summer school course for attending Mamaroneck’s summer program exemplifies the prevalent mindset of white privilege and capitalistic ideals operating in the “Friendly Village.” I welcome a public debate.
Dr. Barbara Ferraro, Rye Neck principal and Debbie Mannetta, communications director for Mamaroneck Schools, avoid the igniting dialogue by emphasizing the entire county of students attending summer school. My focus was and remains on the local Rye Neck student body, since our districts share tax-levied services and the relationship is so solidly established that some homes within Rye Neck can pick either district to attend. This being the case, families should be told about these fees before making that school choice. The summer tuition expense and other fees imposed under the same paradigm could deter families from selecting Rye Neck and consequently increasing the student body in Mamaroneck.
The racial component is monumental. We are not speaking about a randomly compiled racial, ethnic and social class. We are speaking to a specifically burdened, non-randomly selected racial and economic community of color. The fact that not-for-profits who work with families who fall into this predicament have not exposed this nor joined in any other discussions about these disparities, validates that the mindset is strengthened in the name of self-protection for economic and social upward mobility. Going against any of the schools’ policies would, as opposed to could, affect the donations received by the wealthier residents who stereotypically protect against the myths of incurring socially negative data.
When Dr. Ferraro states that “only” 13 Rye Neck students are enrolled in summer school and indicates this as a “low number,” you understand why all our children will end up being excluded from whatever is socially important, which is everything as far as I am concerned. If the number 13 is so low, then the district should return the $5,000 of meaningless revenue to the Rye Neck families. Would Dr. Ferraro say that if her child was a senior needing one course to get into a college she or he was already accepted into?
I have read too many letters signed by the head of the Counseling Department at Mamaroneck for Mamaroneck students who will be taking a Regents exam on Aug. 13 and 14. My son has tutored many in Mamaroneck who failed the Algebra Regents, yet were not accommodated or encouraged into a summer school algebra class for preparation. A Rye Neck student who failed was encouraged to attend summer school. She paid more than $350.
These discrepancies also affect white students in that it continues to nurture an academic experience without a diversification of their classrooms and curriculum. The statistical breakdown of nationalities and ethnicities identified in the school’s enrollment becomes invalid if the classroom dialogue does not include a student voice of all these ethnicities. The real world awaits our white students without a realistic perspective and an inability to speak to the real issues about the world citizenship. Their authentic learning is put at risk. When I speak to young people, of all ethnicities, they express awe in how little awareness they have about each other and life outside Larchmont-Mamaroneck, though many have traveled outside the U.S. How can we expect them to develop cultural sensitivity and empathy if we employ divide-and-conquer tactics under the guise of choice to perform better during the school year? Policy has historically been framed to hold many of us back rather than unite us.
Blaming the victim is patented in these two school districts. The statements from the school districts’ officials should expose why these policies require further investigation from the Office of Civil Rights. I reiterate Dr. Ferraro’s words: “The reason that these kids are going is because they failed something, it’s not because the student was denied any course of study.” When it is deemed convenient we boast that it takes a village to raise a child. The exception is applied when we fail or deviate. When oppression is embedded in the culture of everything, from how we are governed to what we have access to, eventually the discriminatory mindset begins to expose itself more clearly.
We need surgery in these school districts. A lot is not right. What is right should be practice because we fought for it to be that way; it is supposed to be right. All our students are hungry for conversations on justice, including discussions that dissect privilege.