Statement on School Committee Incident 12/17/20

Statement on School Committee Incident 12/17/20
Posted on 12/18/2020

Dear AB Community,

When I communicated with you last night, it was late and our leadership had not had an opportunity to fully process the events that unfolded at the school committee meeting.  Our team met today and is sharing this message to our community.  I am also including a statement from School Committee Chair Tessa McKinley below.

Sincerely,

Peter Light

Superintendent of Schools

To view the statement in video format:

 
To read the transcript:                   

AB Community,

We are members of the leadership team at the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District and leaders in the Acton Boxborough Education Association.  

As you have probably heard, our school committee meeting last night was disrupted by one or more individuals who spewed racist rhetoric that targeted the two Black members of our school committee.  

While the audience at the meeting could not see the messages as they came in, we know that screenshots of these messages were shared on social media.  

This incident was shocking and we were all stunned in the moment, but we have some thoughts we feel compelled to share. While we don’t know all of the details about the incident and what was behind it, this moment will remain emblazoned in our community’s history as a shameful and disgusting act.

There have been some in our towns who have asserted that racism doesn’t exist here; that it lives outside of Acton and Boxborough.  Shortly after the meeting, a member of the “Save the Colonials” group was so intent on distancing their campaign to save a school mascot from this hateful incident that his immediate reaction was to post a social media message insinuating that the incident was intentionally constructed by one of its very targets.   To casually suggest and identify a particular School Committee member as having incentive and nefarious intentions in this instance is itself an act of malicious silencing.  It reflects a gross lack of insight into the racism that it represents, and the verbal violence that two black women suffered in public view. 

This is a moment that we all need to pause and ask ourselves, “what is the kind of thinking that leads to this behavior and what in our community’s culture has enabled this to take place?”  

What we experienced was an affirmation of privileged and narrow thinking from a member of a group so focused on getting what it wants that it is willing to create an environment that normalizes these actions and reactions.  Sadly, this is only one example of what is an endemic pattern of racism in our community.

For those who asserted that racism doesn’t exist in Acton and Boxborough, we all hope that once and for all we can put an end to this irresponsible and false argument.  This is one highly visible incident, but it is not isolated.  We have heard for years members of our community telling us that our schools and community are not safe places for people of color, those of different faiths, from different places and with different beliefs.  

It is time that we all understand that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and the values we hold or presume to hold.  

It is time to stop the rhetoric, it is time to stop the attacks. 

It is time to demand change and for each of us to model the behaviors that create a community of belonging.  

It is time for all of us to acknowledge that building an inclusive community committed to battling racism, anti-semitism, misogyny and other forms of violence involves ongoing work; reflective work, collective work, and actionable work.  

It is well past time that we listen to and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in our community. Voices which have been historically erased and silenced from our national, state and community narrative.

We commit to engaging in this work ourselves, as leaders and as educators, and commit to providing a platform and opportunity for ongoing collaboration and partnership with our community, and we need your help.   This work takes action and bravery to stand up for what is right and to outwardly condemn that which is not. Then, and only then, can we begin to heal.

For now, it is essential that we say “Enough!”  Call out the privileged response by other members of our towns.  And provide unwavering support to the members of our school committee and broader community who have been harmed by the incident.  We have to be more than kind to one another… We need to be better and we need to do more. 

 

Peter Light, Superintendent of Schools

Marie Altieri, Deputy Superintendent of Schools

Dawn Bentley, Assistant Superintendent for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Deborah Bookis, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning

Erin Bettez, Director of Community Education

JD Head, Director of School Operations

Amy Bisiewicz, Director of Educational Technology

Joe Gibowicz, Director of Early Childhood Programming

Debbie Dixson, Interim Special Education Director

Dave Verdolino, Director of Finance 

Larry Dorey, Principal of Acton Boxborough Regional High School

Andrew Shen, Principal of RJ Grey Junior High School

Dana Labb, Principal of Blanchard Memorial School

Chris Whitbeck, Principal of Douglas School

Damian Sugrue Principal of Luther Conant School

Juliana Schneider, Principal of Merriam School

David Krane, Principal of McCarthy-Towne School

Lynne Newman, Principal of Gates School

Val Gransewicz, Principal of Elementary Remote Learning Program

Betty Baker, Associate Principal of Acton Boxborough Regional High School

Mike Balulescu, President of the Acton Boxborough Education Association

Amy Maciel, Vice President of the Acton Boxborough Education Association

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