The mission of REAL is to support and strengthen our school communities by developing an anti-racist culture districtwide.

To make good on our mission, we seek to promote learning and dialogue within Northampton Public Schools about the origins and functioning of systemic racism, and to build the relationships needed to work collectively to interrupt and dismantle racism in our society and our schools.

Members of REAL include teachers, staff, students sixth-grade and older, caregivers, and community supporters across the district. Participation is flexible; some members are kept in the loop about our work via our email listserv (email northampton.real@gmail.com to be added!) and/or social media, and others are active on REAL subcommittees and help coordinate the everyday operations of the group.

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.

The work of REAL began in 2017 thanks to generous funding from the Northampton Education Foundation. Since then we have focused on…

    • Cultivating relationships districtwide and beyond, including with educators, principals, members of the Students of Color Alliances (SOCA) at JFK and NHS, the NHS Student Union, parents/caregivers, School Committee members, the district family engagement coordinator, tech support staff, and others.
    • Collecting stories from people in the district about their experiences of race and racism in Northampton public schools. Collaborating with UMass architect/designer Joseph Krupczynski and the JFK SOCA to build an exhibit, REAL Talk, drawing from these stories.
    • Hosting community conversations among NPS caregivers, faculty/staff, and students on topics of race, racism, and whiteness. 
    • Consulting on the district’s new code of conduct, particularly on the potential adoption of a restorative justice approach to resolving conflict in our schools.
    • With assistance from NPS supporters both inside and outside our district, putting together a directory to assist NPS families in accessing what they need during the pandemic and beyond; support included a districtwide fundraiser, #WeAreCommunity, that REAL co-sponsored.
    • Shining a light on NPS community members and supporters whose work reflects a commitment to racial equity and learning.
    • Advocating to end discriminatory high-stakes testing/MCAS, with its disproportionate impact on students of color, ELL students, students with disabilities, and students from poor and working-class families.
    • Serving as a resource to community organizations and groups with complementary missions—for example, by hosting two workshops, including Visioning an Anti-Racist School Community, for the Resistance Center’s annual MLK Day event.
    • Building coalitions that advocated for the banning of school resource officers and the Confederate flag in Northampton public schools.
    • Seeding a relationship with the Northampton Prevention Coalition, which to date has provided grant funding for REAL promotional materials, a REAL Talk facilitation guide for educators, restorative practice books, and more.
    • Sharing resources (articles, videos, podcasts, calls to action, event invites, etc.) on social media and with our 200-member listserv that support our mission.