PVRHSD faculty to attend seminar on MLK Day

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Pascack Valley Regional High School District’s faculty will attend a seminar on Martin Luther King Day, Monday Jan. 21 about the history of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination hosted by Seton Hall University’s College of Arts and Sciences at the university’s campus in South Orange.

The professional development that was planned for this date prior to the scheduling of the faculty’s attendance at the Seton Hall seminar will take place the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 23. Students at both Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills will have a 10 a.m. start to accommodate for the professional development.

“This is really the first big step for us as educators in becoming more educated about what may be happening both locally and globally,” PVRHSD Superintendent Erik Gundersen said.

After the recent issues regarding anti-Semitic and other discriminatory graffiti found at both Hills and Valley, administrators made it a goal to implement both short-term and long-term procedures in response to the incidents.

The district’s attendance at this seminar will not be the end in administrative efforts to address the issues.

“This by no means is the wrap-up of anything,” Gundersen said. “This is just the beginning.”

The seminar will be lead by Rev. Dr. Forrest M. Pritchett, Seton Hall’s director of its Martin Luther King Leadership Program. There have been annual events at the university in honor of Martin Luther King since as far back as he can remember (he has been teaching at the university for 40 years). Normally what is done is aimed at university students, but this is the first time that the seminar will be opened to a large population.

“This year we decided to upgrade what we do by offering something for the larger community,” Pritchett said. “It is going to be a full day of instruction on social issues and social groups in America.”

This by no means is the wrap-up of anything. This is just the beginning.”

— PVRHSD Superintendent Erik Gundersen

PVRHSD Director of Curriculum Dr. Barry Bachenheimer saw flyers for the seminar while at a different event at Seton Hall and brought the idea of attending the seminar to Gundersen.

PVRHSD faculty will partake in sessions on the roots of oppression, neo-racism, privilege, and civic engagement, to name a few. The day will end with a presentation called “Soul Matters” that will take a philosophical approach that pulls from the Bible the idea that what is most valuable in your life, more so than one’s title, reputation, or possessions, is your soul because, according to Pritchett, “your soul is your values, attitudes, and what you believe in.”

After the seminar, Pritchett hopes the attendants will have more resources available to help them think through these issues and will develop a proactive attitude in addressing them.

“They will need to educate towards what it means to be living in a democratic society,” Pritchett said. “Everybody in America has the right of freedom of expression, but when that expression begins to limit the capacity of other people, then that’s inappropriate.”

He also mentioned that “people in authority have to set some rules and some standards so that people know there are punishments with these sorts of things.”

Gundersen feels this program will be beneficial for the district.

“I think that for us to really make substantial sustainable long-term improvements to our current practices,” Gundersen said, “we need to educate ourselves a little more on the state of the events occurring both locally and nationally.”

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