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REAL (Racial Equity and Learning) brings together NPS teachers, staff, students sixth-grade and older, and caregivers who are committed to developing an anti-racist school district.

Those of us involved are deepening our understanding of how race, racism, and whiteness operate in Northampton Public Schools and beyond. We are working together and across our community to create a district that actively opposes racism and promotes racial equity.

Check out a glossary of terms relevant to anti-racist work.

Currently, the active members of what is known internally as REAL’s coordinating team include Jenny Bender, Jen Bernache-Stiles, Kristen Elde, Leigh-Ellen Figueroa, Deborah Keisch, Amy Martyn, Kara McLaughlin, Noel Raley, Annie Salsich, Soledad Thorman Vargas, and Lesley Yalen.

We are working toward a district where:

♥  Educators and administrators are racially diverse
♥  School curriculum, policies, and practices emphasize the voices and contributions of people of color
♥  Perspectives and recommendations of students of color are solicited, heard, and acted upon by leadership

♥  Conflict resolution is about repairing and improving relationships among people, not punishing individuals
♥  Conversations about race and race equity are integral to school culture
♥  People value their interconnectedness, and all people feel they belong

Sound good to you? Part of the NPS community? Join our group—and spread the word!

Current Work

For the 2022–23 school year, REAL is emphasizing relationships and community building as a fundamental part of the group’s anti-racist mission. We will focus on listening to and understanding the concerns of more people in our community as well as on facilitating and supporting opportunities for community members to connect, learn from one another, have fun together, build trust, and take action on shared concerns.

Our work will include three main strands: 

Story Sharing Exhibit. The Story Sharing Exhibit Subcommittee is behind a digital exhibit and an in-person exhibit COMING MAY 1st, 6-8 p.m. at JFK,  that draws from stories shared by people in the district about their experiences with race, racism, and anti-racism in Northampton public schools. The intention: to help guide school community conversations on these crucial topics. Work also involves collaborating with teachers (including art teachers!) and students districtwide to expand the reach and impact of the exhibit. Contact Deborah Keisch at for more information about this effort.

Restorative Practices. REAL’s Restorative Practices (RP) Subcommittee emphasizes building relationships and holding district leadership accountable for its expressed commitment to restorative practices—moving away from a punitive school culture based on “power over” and toward a model based on “power with.” The group works in supportive partnership with students, faculty/staff, administrators, and community members to integrate restorative practices into all aspects of school life. Some of this work includes supporting the creation of a strategic plan for restorative practices in the district, building youth/adult leadership and training opportunities, and connecting community RP partners to NPS. Contact Leigh-Ellen Figueroa at with interest.

Family Engagement. REAL will continue to support the district’s Family-Student Engagement and English Learner Education Coordinator, Lauren Barry, in her efforts to connect with families across the district, address their needs and concerns, and provide opportunities for them to develop a sense of belonging and empowerment within NPS. Last year we supported the design and dissemination of a districtwide school climate survey as well as the launch of the EL Hub, an afterschool program and meeting space for English language learners across the district. For more information about this part of REAL’s work, contact Lesley Yalen at

If you’re part of NPS, we welcome you to join us in any of these efforts!