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Northwood dedicates year to ‘fighting inequality, embracing inclusion’

LAKE PLACID — Administrators at Northwood School, in response to recent controversy over racist graffiti found in Saranac Lake and broader conversations about race and inequality, have decided to dedicate the upcoming school year to the theme of “Fighting Inequality. Embracing Inclusion.”

The theme was announced in a statement from Head of School Michael Maher on Saturday, July 11. The statement came a few days after the director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, Nicole Hylton-Patterson, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that she was moving out of Saranac Lake because she hadn’t felt safe living there as a Black person since the graffiti was found on June 26. She also pointed to a lack of response from local officials to the graffiti, as well as a threat to Black Lives Matter protestors last month.

The news of the graffiti was picked up by media outlets around the state after Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the graffiti in a statement last week and called for the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to help village police find the perpetrator.

As part of Northwood’s school year theme, school meetings will have speakers that will address the topics of race and culture, according to Northwood School Director of Marketing Darcy Norfolk.

“We plan to have ongoing conversations in our classrooms and this theme will be built into the curriculum and daily class discussions,” she said. “Additionally, the Innovation Hub will host a series of lectures and workshops to address this issue within the broader community. Hub Talks and Alumni Exchange, Student Exchange are forums that will be scheduled.”

Students will also be required to read “The Other Wes Moore,” a 2010 novel by Wes Moore that documents the author’s life as well as the life of another man named Wes Moore who grew up a few blocks from him.

Maher said “racism of all kinds, including the abhorrent graffiti found in neighboring Saranac Lake recently, is antithetical to the values of Respect, Integrity, Compassion, Courage, and Responsibility that are the foundation of the Northwood School community.”

“Such acts are meant to intimidate and threaten all of us who are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but especially the Black members of our community,” he said. “We are not intimidated and will redouble our efforts to be an institution that embraces an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism.”

The first group of Northwood students are set to return to the private school’s Lake Placid campus on Aug. 17. They’ll be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. After that, small groups of students will follow every few days throughout the last part of August, with each group tested for COVID-19 when they arrive.

An online crowdfunding campaign to help the school raise money for expenses related to testing and COVID-19 is happening at www.givecampus.com/schools/NorthwoodSchool/northwood-forward-crisis-response-fund.

Classes at Northwood School are scheduled to begin on Sept. 3.