MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Calling it “a unique chance to interact with the community and discuss issues they face daily,” the Mount Vernon City school board recently began hosting monthly weekend conferences with students, parents and community members.

In an official document released September 26th, the school board provided a schedule of the upcoming monthly events for October 2014 through June 2015.

Topics of the first conference, which took place on October 18th, were “Should the Longfellow Elementary and Middle Schools be Renamed for Benjamin Turner and Rebecca Turner…” and “Multi-Cultural Awareness Conference: Reparations for Mount Vernon.”

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In preparation for the October conference, attached to the district’s schedule was 37 pages of history and information on Benjamin and Rebecca Turner and a 48-page document titled “The Case for Reparations.”

Written earlier this year by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations ultimately supports the passage of H.R. 40, a bill that has been introduced by Rep. John Conyers at the start of every Congress since 1989.

H.R. 40 – the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act – bears the following formal title:

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

According to Mount Vernon City Schools, other upcoming community conference topics will include “district funding fairness” and “should legal resident immigrants have a right to vote in Mount Vernon School District elections.”

According to the Mount Vernon Daily Voice, School Board President Elias Gootzeit said this in a statement announcing the initiative:

These conferences are an opportunity to engage our community and begin important conversations that will address some of the social inequalities that students and residents of Mount Vernon experience in their day-to-day lives.

District Superintendent Kenneth R. Hamilton shared the sentiment, saying, “In order to make this mantra a reality and common practice, it will require the entire community embrace the dawning of a new day and forge ahead to improve the conditions that compromise student success and reverse patterns that perpetuate underachievement.”

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Under the direction of both Hamilton and former District Superintendent Judith Johnson, Mount Vernon Schools have shown an increasing commitment to social justice education.

According to the September 2013 issue of the district’s publication, “What’s Going On Around Mount Vernon City Schools,” district teachers, principals and staff receive professional development training from the radically progressive Annenberg Institute for School Reform.