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  • Writer's pictureEmily Berry

Comments on the work ahead.

Below is a written version of comments I made at the board meeting tonight, April 9.

Tonight will be one of the last times I speak to you as an audience member, for at least a few years. I am eager to start our work together.

It's been just under six months since the production of To Kill a Mockingbird here at SHS prompted a conversation about race. The truths that our students, alumni and parents shared took many white community members by surprise. We learned that we have failed to live up to our ideals as a community and a district.

The gaps in educational experience was probably not a surprise to you all, I know, since you had been tracking the issue of academic educational debt for years, and had been working to address it for years as well. But I would guess that like me, you were shocked to hear a student describe his experience at SHS as a steady view of the floor, because as a young black man he never felt safe or welcome enough to make eye contact with many of his peers.

Six months have passed, and some of us have been working over that time to address racism both in the schools and in the village as a whole. I know you and administrators, teachers and students have also been hard at work as well - I only want to ask for more from you - the same I ask of myself - and I ask that we work urgently.

I know we will have lots of time to discuss this in the next three years, but I want to say a few things about the work we have ahead of us. As you no doubt heard me express before, I think confusion about roles and responsibilities of the board, administration and teachers fed into the frustration felt across our community during the controversy over To Kill a Mockingbird.

I believe this board is responsible for ensuring no child in this district feels alone, that no student spends his days looking at the floor rather than his peers’ faces. The day to day experience of students is not outside the school board’s lane. I don't have any doubt that all of you feel just as strongly as I do about the work ahead. That's why I hope we can be clear with the Superintendent, with other school leaders and even with students that we will hold them and ourselves accountable for change.

You have already wisely revised policy to reflect expectations around equity. I would like to call on this board - the board I will join in a few weeks - to take this work one step further and ask for a month-by-month action plan from our Superintendent for making progress toward meeting those goals.

The policy you have worked on must become action, and quickly. We can’t wait for an Equity Director to be hired and settle in to the job. We can’t wait for anyone else to do the work. It’s us. Every person who works on behalf of this district has to take personal responsibility for driving this work forward, for taking on the goal of being better than “colorblind” - to be anti-racist. This is the responsibility of all of but especially those elected to lead this district, and I am glad to be part of that group.

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