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Smithtown schools administrator who was criticized for equity efforts steps down

Smithtown Central School District Administration building.

Smithtown Central School District Administration building.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Smithtown Central School District administrator who helped guide the district’s diversity and equity work will leave for a job at an education foundation.

Jennifer Bradshaw, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction and administration, will take a job as an international curriculum consultant in the World Leading Schools Association Foundation network, Smithtown Superintendent Mark Secaur said Friday in a statement emailed by a district spokesman. "We wish her well and thank her for her 19 years of committed service to the Smithtown school community."

Bradshaw had been criticized by some district parents and others who conflated the district’s equity work with critical race theory or CRT, a body of academic thought broadly defined by its focus on themes of racial exploitation. On Friday, Shawn Farash, a leader of the conservative group Long Island Loud Majority, tweeted approvingly about Bradshaw’s departure.

District spokesman Michael Ganci said in an email that Bradshaw’s departure "did not have anything to do" with outside pressure. Bradshaw did not agree to an interview request but said in an email to Newsday that she began to look for opportunities to work abroad last year while completing her educational doctorate at Vanderbilt University. "My goal is to learn all I can from school systems around the world before coming back to my home of New York," she wrote.

District officials have repeatedly said they do not teach CRT but are implementing what Secaur in an email to Newsday this month called "inclusive practices that encourage a sense of community and opportunity for all students." Parents have said topics include race but also LGBTQ people, special education and different cultures.

Bradshaw helped guide that work through her leadership of the district’s Equity Team, said Amy Fortunato, a team member and district resident.

A web page for the equity team says its more than 100 members "meet regularly to discuss and develop ways to meet the needs of all students by elevating their voices, making our schools more inclusive, embracing diversity, providing students what they need to thrive, and ensuring that our curriculum is representative of the world around us."

The team is working to meet goals including increasing the diversity of district staff and developing a "more culturally relevant curriculum," according to the web page.

Fortunato said Bradshaw was "a great educator… It just seems like a huge loss for us."

But Mike Simonelli, a Suffolk police officer and district parent who also serves on the equity team, faulted Bradshaw for not preventing what he said in an email were falsehoods about police brutality spread last year by other team members. "I hope the person who fills her shoes uses that position to unite our community while supporting diversity, inclusion and the American principal of equality," he wrote.

WLSA hosts international educators’ conferences and operates student exchange programs, according to its website.

Clarification: Jennifer Bradshaw’s new job will be with the World Leading Schools Association Foundation network, not directly with the foundation. An earlier version of the story was unclear.

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