Dr. Christopher Tamburro has taught history and criminal justice at Verona High School for more than a decade, often, he says, teaching on controversial issues. He is also president of Verona’s teachers’ union, the Verona Education Association. Last month, he and several other school teachers came together to set up a book club for teachers to read and reflect on racial justice issues.
The teachers will be reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How To Be An Anti-Racist,” which is at or near the top of several major national booklists now. Participation is voluntary, but substantial Tamburro says, and the VEA will be paying for the books, which it was able to obtain at a discount. “We have a talented and committed faculty who are looking for professional growth,” he adds. “The more we can empower teachers, the better we can serve students.”
To serve students, the VEA hopes to extend what it is learning beyond its membership. Tamburro says that, this fall, it will be looking to have discussions around the book with students and their parents that will be facilitated by the teachers now in the club, much like the One District, One Book initiative that has been going on in Verona schools for several years. “Our goal is not to have everyone think the same,” Tamburro says. “We want debates and discussions.”
“The school district can teach ethics,” he adds, “but by having community involvement they can continue to be reinforced at home.”
While ten administrators will be participating in the VEA book club, several of them participated in a New Jersey State Bar Foundation virtual workshop on the book in June, and created their own anti-racism action plans. Verona’s administrators also created their own book club on diversity. They are reading “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do,” by Jennifer Eberhardt. For more about what Verona’s public schools have been doing on racial issues and their new curriculum plans, see “Race And Verona’s Curriculum.”
Both “How To Be An Anti-Racist” and “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” are available through the Verona Public Library. For more about what Verona’s curriculum to address issues of race, see here.