Skip To Main Content

BPS awarded $250K grant to address two pandemics: COVID and systemic racism

(December 3, 2020 – BROCKTON, Mass)  Brockton Public Schools announced the district was awarded $250,000 in grant funds from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to address the deep inequities created by COVID and systemic racism.

"We've seen how these forces have disproportionately negatively affected Black, Brown and Indigenous communities," said Nellie Mae President and CEO Nick Donohue. "As a philanthropic organization, we know we have a duty to use our power and privilege to do more to combat systemic, anti-Black racism, especially in our public education system. The truth is that the reality of this double pandemic has forced us to apply a magnifying glass to the deep inequities of our public education system and our society at large. We are proud to support Brockton Public Schools in ensuring that all of its students have access to an excellent and equitable student-centered education."

The organization has allocated an additional $20M this year to support work addressing anti-Black racism and COVID relief, and is supporting 10 New England school districts servicing communities with large numbers of Black and Brown children and their families that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19, including Brockton.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing racial and socio-economic disparities for the diverse population of students and families of the district," Superintendent Michael Thomas said. "The district will continue to take every measure to mitigate these disparities.  We are constantly evaluating our equity and diversity efforts to identify opportunities for improvement and growth.  Systemic racism continues to be one of our most pressing challenges, and we will continue to look for new ways, programs, and partnerships to address racial and ethnic disparities."

Earlier this year, Brockton Public Schools committed to address racial equity with a three-pronged approach: 1. Establish a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee of the School Committee, 2. Recruit and hire racially and ethnically diverse educators and staff, and 3. Establish a district Office of Diversity, Race, Equity and Inclusion.

Under the leadership of the Chief of Student Support Services, Sharon Wolder, the district's Diversity Education Steering Committee (DESC) has been working on matters of racial equity for the past three years.  The DESC is a team of administrators and teachers from all grade levels that has planned professional development trainings to assess the inclusion of students' cultural references in professional practice, classroom environments, classroom materials and lesson planning.

"We appreciate the Nellie Mae Foundation for honoring our work with a grant that provides additional funding for DESC," Sharon Wolder said.  "This grant gives Brockton the opportunity to open the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion this school year; a historic move and a clear stance on the district's commitment to addressing equity and social justice concerns."

DESC was initiated as a way for educators to engage in conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion.  Beyond the initial collaborative learning experiences, the committee was tasked with creating and leading professional development workshops, designing the EDI self-assessment tool, and gathering resources that support educators in providing culturally responsive learning experiences for their students.

Grant funds were outlined in the district's proposal to support the district's needs in four major areas:


1.       Nellie Mae funds will be used as seed money to establish the district's planned Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  District leadership has committed to establishing a DEI Office this school year, and fully sustaining it as a permanent part of the district's organizational structure.  

2.       Continue the planning and coordination of educator and staff professional development by the DESC around anti-blackness, racial inequities, and implicit bias.  Funds will be used to purchase timely and relevant instructional materials and classroom materials.

3.       Contract with local experts to work collaboratively with the Office of Teaching and Learning, Office of Student Support Services, and the DESC to "decolonize" the K-12 curriculum. 

4.       Provide student and family supports through mentoring, social-emotional, mental and physical health care around race and racial trauma; and will partner with community organizations and cultural advocacy groups.


"Brockton Public Schools has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and it has caused a myriad of other challenges including childhood hunger, an adverse economic impact on local families, and strains on social-emotional development, psychological, behavioral and academic success," said Cynthia Rivas Mendes, Chair of the Diversity, Race, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee.  "Nellie Mae will serve as a tremendous partner in supporting the district to champion efforts to further prioritize community goals that challenge racial inequities and advance excellent student-centered education."

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to reshaping public education in New England.   The grant will be supported by the foundation, which in addition to grant funds will provide resources and support to enhance the district's ongoing work to address academic achievement gaps among its BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students, and widen its racial lens around immigrant and linguistic barriers.