NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna Central School District is on the market for someone to lead its efforts to ensure equity for all students – again.
Matt Grimes, who started as Niskayuna’s equity coordinator in August, a newly-created position tasked with improving issues of diversity and inclusion in the district, has resigned effective Friday.
Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. this week said he planned to fill the position as soon as possible and that he had reached out to people across the state and nation about finding someone for the job. The equity coordinator job played a key role as district officials responded this fall after Niskayuna fans made racist comments during a home soccer game against Schenectady.
“It’s a stutter step,” Tangorra said of whether the vacancy would slow momentum on the district’s efforts. “The whole community, the whole district is committed to advancing this work and bringing equity to the forefront.”
While officials search to fill the equity coordinator vacancy, Tangorra said the district would continue working with outside firms and consultants on equity and diversity programs. He said he met this week with students about equity initiatives they have established in an effort to continue moving those ideas forward without an equity coordinator on the job.
When reached by email this week, Grimes declined to comment about his departure. Grimes grew up in Troy and has worked at The College of Saint Rose and the SEAT Center in Schenectady. He also taught middle school and high school Spanish in Cleveland city schools.
Niskayuna’s efforts to promote equity – a focus on ensuring students from all backgrounds feel supported and are treated fairly – were thrust into the spotlight this fall after Niskayuna student fans directed racist comments at Schenectady players during a girl’s soccer game. District officials said they couldn’t identify specific students responsible for the comments. Former and current Niskayuna students and families have also recounted racist comments and incidents and feelings of isolation dating back decades.
In the fall, as Grimes settled into the new position, he defined equity as “making sure we provide opportunities to students to access the same experience within and outside the class.” He had started working with students, teachers and school administrators; when a group of Niskayuna students joined students from other area districts at Union to discuss diversity and inclusion, Grimes joined them.
“As a system, it is our job, it is our priority to make sure that all students deserve and have access to an excellent education,” Grimes said in an October interview with the Daily Gazette. “When we remove diversity, equity and inclusions from the conversation, we really are not ensuring that all students are being accounted for and we are leaving some behind.”
Tangorra in the fall acknowledged not all Niskayuna students are enjoying the same educational experience: “There is a separate experience that is taking place for students of color,” he said in October. This week he reiterated that equity was a “major issue” for district leaders.