Whitesboro teacher issues apology for disparaging the Cornhill neighborhood of Utica

Two days after a school assignment circulated on social media, a Whitesboro school teacher apologizes for his actions.

Posted: Sep 19, 2021 3:51 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2021 5:51 PM

WHITESBORO, N.Y. - A Whitesboro teacher who made a disparaging reference to the Cornhill neighborhood of Utica in a homework assignment has issued an apology.

The assignment has been widely circulated on social media, sparking a heated response.

In the assignment, there's a sentence that is insulting to the Cornhill neighborhood of Utica, reading “You want to get your own apartment but your mother worries about you and doesn’t want you to get shot in corn hill.”

Whitesboro Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Bellair posted on the district's website Sunday afternoon saying teacher Eric Paul issued a statement that Paul wants to share with the entire community.

It reads as follows:

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To whom it may concern:

Last week I fell short as an educator and role model. In an assignment, for my Personal Finance class, I used insensitive, offensive language, and I'm sincerely sorry. I realized how divisive and disparaging my words were to the Cornhill community, and I apologize. It was not my intention to insult the good people that live in Cornhill, or anybody that had lived there in the past. In addition, I apologize to the Whitesboro School District and community for any distress this has caused.

I take my responsibilities as an educator seriously. As I have often shared with my students, when you make a mistake you have to own it, and try to make amends. Words matter, and mine were poorly chosen. I have learned a valuable lesson, and will take the opportunity to pass this lesson on to my students.

I am sorry, and I will do better in the future.

Sincerely,

Eric Paul

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Bellair released a statement on the district's website following Paul's letter saying the following:

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"We have known Mr. Paul as a child-centered teacher in the District as a long-time employee and we trust the sincerity behind his apology. That said, we recognize that we have some essential professional development to continue with our staff regarding bias, diversity, equity and inclusion.

In October of last year we provided a day of professional development for all staff with Dr. Meredith Madden, Assistant Professor of Education at Utica College. Her teaching and research focus on pedagogies and curriculum, intergroup dialogue, educational equity with a focus on racial and social justice education, teacher preparation, and higher-education/community collaborations.

Her initial workshop in October was on "Teaching Toward Educational Equity." We subsequently provided more intensive workshops with Dr. Madden between January 11 and February 11: a 3-hour anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum workshop for the Social Studies department, a 3-hour anti-racist pedagogy and curriculum workshop for English Language Arts department, and an 8-hour training course on race, racism, anti-racism and education available to all instructional staff.

These workshops provided important concepts for future professional development. Included within our District 5-Year Plan is a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for all buildings and departments. As an introduction to this focus, the Board of Education has received a presentation on the 4 Principles of Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education: a welcoming and affirming environment, high expectations and rigorous instruction, inclusive curriculum and assessment, and ongoing professional learning. For staff, our next Superintendent's Conference Day in October will include further professional development on DEI; and for our student athletes, we will be providing DEI activities with other districts' student athletes. In light of the concerns raised from this recent assignment, department chairpersons, principals, and administrators will be reviewing curriculum and homework assignments for implicit bias and reviewing guidelines for class work and assignments.

The District regrets the hurt and anger that has permeated our local communities as a result of this incident and looks forward to constructive conversations and collaboration around the apparent issues. We want every student, every family, and each resident of our communities to know that we strive to be a place of welcome and safety for all, where race, culture and humanity are valued and honored. Where we fall short of that aspiration, we will work harder toward meeting this vision."

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Councilman Delvin Moody wrote a letter to the superintendent, which he shared on social media Monday.

No word of any disciplinary action taken against the teacher

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