IRVINGTON---When concerns of bullying in his son's classroom went unnoticed by school authorities, Irvington dad Michael Zeldes rallied his community together to make a change.
The local chief of police, students, parents and Village Trustee Brian Smith met this past summer to create a “Diversity Task Force” to design a pro-tolerance protocol for students and teachers of the Irvington School District.
“What we do a lot as business executives is that if we don’t know something, we get experts who do,” he said.
Zeldes and his team have since drawn up a plan integrating assemblies and staff training focused on student situations pertaining to tolerance. The district-wide curriculum will also be altered under his leadership with the implementation of “Facing History, Facing Ourselves,” an educational motive intertwining civic justices with real-life historical events. For instance, youngsters will be able to see how ignorance and discrimination have both led to devastating events in our world’s history,such as Darfur or the Holocaust.
“We’re trying to get kids to understand social relevance and thinking, ‘the way I just dealt with this is similar to what happened in Darfur, for example,” Zeldes said.
Making those kinds of changes costs money though. That’s why Zeldes has since helped build the Irvington Diversity Foundation to pay for staff development, speakers and workshops focusing on the anti-bullying mission. The Irvington Education Foundation and Irvington PTSA have drawn around $25K in grants so far, along with individual contributions.
“This year should be significant—it’s exciting to see a difference being made,” he added.
When he isn’t fighting to protect diversity, Zeldes sits on the foundation board of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, where he raises money for little ones. At last year’s annual wine tasting and auction at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in White Plains, Westchester Medical Center raised $350,000 with Zeldes' help.