A Passionate Voice for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Town of New Castle
Town of New Castle Deputy Supervisor Victoria Bayard Tipp is the first person of color to be elected and to serve on the town board. Tipp has lived in Chappaqua with her husband Robert for 22 years. They have four grown children. Tipp shares her thoughts on diversity, equity and inclusion, her aspirations for the town, and her inspiring personal journey.
Born in Port au Prince, Haiti, Vicky Tipp immigrated to the United States in 1963 when she was almost two years old. As she and her mother were boarding the plane, Haitian military police pointed guns at them. Tipp was terrified and did not want to walk. Fortunately, an American flight attendant saw this and took the toddler from her mother. She carried Tipp onto the plane preventing the police from shooting the child and her mother because an American was present. When they arrived in the states they first lived in New York with her grandmother, an award-winning educational leader in Haiti, who had fled the country earlier. They were later joined by her father who was an attorney.
Tipp, whose first language was French, entered Kindergarten in a public school in Jackson Heights, Queens where they had no program for non-English speakers. When her mother took a job at the United Nations, they moved to Manhattan and Tipp was enrolled in first grade at the United Nations International School, a multicultural school with students from over 100 countries. She then went on to earn degrees from Barnard College and Harvard Law School.
Education was very important to Tipp and her family, so it is no surprise that she began her public service work on the Chappaqua Board of Education. “The most important aspect of education was my family’s attitude about it as the way to live a fulfilling life and gain independence and stability,” says Tipp. “That was a big influence for my running for the Board of Ed.”
Equity, diversity, and inclusion have been important issues for Tipp. When she was elected to the Chappaqua Board of Education in 2011, she had discussions with the then superintendent about equity and inclusion and what they could do in Chappaqua to expose students to more diversity. “At the time people were not focused on issues of equity like they are now,” says Tipp. “However, when Christine Ackerman became superintendent, she was very responsive to those concerns and willing to open up our professional development to work with Ossining and other school districts, which provided a good perspective for our faculty.”
Then with the Black Lives Matter movement, the school board started to hear from alumni whom they then invited to a meeting to share their stories as they began an equity audit. “We wanted to open that up to our alumni and our community, so people could understand the extent of the inequities that had taken place,” says Tipp. Christine Ackerman, Superintendent of Schools, acknowledges Tipp’s significant role in this work. “As a member of the Board of Education and past president, Vicky’s leadership, insights, and advocacy for action were instrumental in shifting our practices to respond to the needs identified by our students and community in our equity audit,” says Ackerman. “Her unwavering commitment to ensuring all students are seen and valued for who they are in our school community resulted in revising several Board of Education policies, forming the CARES committee, and selecting Insight to support professional learning for all staff.”
Tipp did a considerable amount of equity advocacy work on the Westchester Putnam School Boards Association where she was chair of the advocacy committee for three years and president for three years. She also served on the steering committee for the Lower Hudson Education Coalition, an organization that does legislative advocacy. “I was able to do a lot more equity work through those regional organizations than I was able to do just being on the local board level,” says Tipp. “That made school board work for me a very rich and rewarding experience. It gave me a perspective into what other school districts were experiencing including children who are not as fortunate as children in Chappaqua.”
New Castle Supervisor Lisa Katz says that Tipp’s diverse background gives her the perfect perspective to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the town as the board liaison to the Committee on Race, Equity and Inclusion (CREI.) “Vicky is an incredibly thoughtful and intelligent woman who is singularly focused on doing what’s right for our community. Having served as the non-partisan president of the school board, she understands the importance of listening to all viewpoints and treating our neighbors with genuine respect.”
Tipp has a vision for how she hopes the CREI will do their work with the community. “In my experience, both on the school board and on the town board, when people think about these entities–schools, or governments or organizations–it’s important to understand that these are not static and impersonal, they’re made of people, and they’re living and breathing systems. They are made up of relationships and interactions,” says Tipp who thinks that good communication is key and ground rules should be set. “It’s important to establish environments where there is trust, where we can create safe spaces to have real conversations. People need to feel that they can come forward with their ideas without fear of being stigmatized,” says Tipp. She would like the focus to be on understanding, rather than having to agree, and for people to be willing to talk through differences. “I think that the hardest thing to do is to create common understandings to have constructive conversations to move forward together in a productive way. These are the things we need to do as a community.”
Collaboration is a word that resonates with Tipp. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are paramount to the growth and health of a community,” says Tipp. “There are nine of these committees doing this work in the town.” In addition to the CREI that was appointed in May, the Chappaqua School district has the Board’s CARES committee, plus seven PTA committees–one district-wide and one at each of the six schools. And there is also the DEI work being done by the four other school districts within the Town of New Castle. “It’s important to form partnerships so that we have a community that’s racially, culturally, and socially inclusive and it gets hard to do that if you’re working in different silos.”
In addition to serving as the liaison to the CREI, she is also the liaison to the Beautification Advisory Board. The Town expects to form an LGBTQ committee to which Tipp will be the liaison as well.
Like Supervisor Katz, Tipp would like to see more cultural celebrations in town. “This is something we can do by working with our different town committees, the CREI committee, EPIC, and Holocaust and Human Rights Committee. We have these committees to provide a more inclusive process and to have more input from residents in town. It’s important for all the committees to work together to bring programs, events, presentations and get togethers–formal and informal,” says Tipp.
Tipp sees a way to bring the town together. “In order to do anything from equity work, zoning, revitalization, and bringing vibrancy to the hamlets, we would want to be inclusive with that work as well. There’s so much we can do together. I really believe in the power of collaboration of groups, and I think if we do that, we will create a sense of belonging because we’ll be creating more connections between groups and people.”
Tipp’s experience on the town board has surpassed her expectations. “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What’s been wonderful is peoples’ willingness to take on challenging tasks that are important to our community to move the community forward. It’s an honor to serve.” She finds the challenges motivating, and likes that she can help people, and listen to their stories and perspectives. “That’s what makes us a community. We learn about each other, and we learn from each other.”