Joint Sample Letter from Ridgewood Community Members

To: Members of the Board of Education of the Ridgewood Public Schools, Dr. Thomas Gorman, Superintendent, District Administrators and School Principals

From:  Rev. Dr. Kenneth Gill, Senior Minister, Emmanuel Church of Ridgewood, NJ; Coordinating Team, Community Peace and Justice Network.

Rev. Dr. Arturo P. Lewis, Associate Minister, Emmanuel Church; Seminar Leader, “Race Together: Learnings About Race and Racism in America.” Monthly seminars, small group discussions, podcasts, Jan. – Dec. 2021. Adjunct Professor, Diversity Studies, William Paterson University; parent of a child who graduated from Ridgewood High School.

Donald F. Wheeler, Ph.D., Chairperson, Communications Ministry, Emmanuel Church; Coordinator, Community Peace and Justice Network; Coordinator, “Race Together… (above); Senior Advisor, N.J. Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (; Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Global Studies, Kean University; parent of children who graduated from Ridgewood Public Schools

Rev. Judy Wheeler, Pastoral Associate, Emmanuel Church; Coordinating Team, Community Peace and Justice Network; Co-chair, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Ridgewood and Glen Rock; Retired Bi-lingual Teacher of Japanese Children and ESL Teacher in the Fort Lee School District (30 years); parent of children who graduated from Ridgewood Public Schools.

(Titles for identification purposes only- we write as Ridgewood concerned citizens)

As concerned citizens residing in the Village of Ridgewood, we wish to thank you for your commitment to the Ridgewood Public School’s Diversity Statement and activities. We are writing to you with our strong support for the Ridgewood Public Schools to hire a DEI officer with the expertise to lead this initiative and request that you allocate the necessary resources to support this effort in all our schools and in the community.

We are pleased that the Board of Education has adopted diversity as one of our four district goals for the coming year. We are also thankful for the editorial in The Ridgewood News by Dr. Gorman on how “empathy fosters a positive school culture” where all are included. This is at the heart of the Ridgewood BOE Diversity statement and is exactly what the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” initiative aims to achieve.

We applaud the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” efforts already taking place in the schools, but based on our experience as parents, educational leaders, clergy and classroom teachers with this and similar diversity initiatives, we feel strongly that a full-time DEI officer is essential to lead this effort for district-wide change and to coordinate the work with district leaders, teachers, students, parents and the community to bring about measurable positive results.

He/she would be tasked with facilitating positive cultural change in all areas of activity in the entire educational institution and local community, working with the district staff to build relationships in each of schools, and coordinating the work with teachers, the whole educational team, students, parents and community accountable to achieve measurable outcomes.

A DEI officer/ coordinator position is needed to support: a hiring process that can help attain greater diversity, guide curricula, provide staff guidance with complicated class discussions, guide administrators with DEI efforts, give attention to school climate, guide district/parent partnerships and more.

This task calls for a full-time position with a DEI officer responsible for goal- setting in collaboration with the district leadership, school and community stake-holders, coordinating the DEI initiative and nurturing cooperation and joint efforts toward shared expected outcomes and assessments.

A vision for a DEI initiative would be developed collaboratively to support student growth in empathy, cultural competency, and global perspectives designed to support greater academic achievement, and a creative learning community in preparation for future careers, achieving life goals and making positive contributions to our increasingly diverse community and globalized world.

The Ridgewood Public Schools have the leadership, talent, supportive activities and vision to take this diversity initiative to the next level. However, we need a DEI officer who is responsible to lead the effort, and who has the dedicated time, ability and specialized expertise to guide the process to toward its goals over several years with each new cohort of students. Because we are experiencing rapid social change, greater diversity, societal dislocation and polarization, it is particularly important that our schools develop a culture that provides ways to deal with differences on a day- to- day basis before crises emerge.

A strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program directed by a dedicated, professional educator can help to release the great potential of our increasing diversity to help achieve the outcome Dr. Gorman envisions in his recent comments on empathy: “By striving to nurture that which unifies us as human beings and rejecting what divides us, we can grow positive relationships and build stronger inter-connected communities.”

As community members, we pledge our support to this DEI initiative and we will encourage our networks and constituencies to do the same, for the benefit of all the people of the Village of Ridgewood.

We wish to express our deep appreciation for all you do for our community and our thanks for considering this important request!


Kenneth Gill     Arturo P. Lewis       Judy Wheeler       Donald Wheeler