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Stonington school leaders pledge to address systemic racism

Stonington -- Stating that Black Lives Matter and the school system must do better, members of the district leadership team have pledged to take action to address systemic racism within the school system.

The Call to Action is in response to a recent Change.Org petition signed by 532 students, alumni and residents to take action.

That group’s petition stated “it is absolutely critical for Stonington Public Schools to address racism as a public health and human rights crisis.”

“We are demanding Stonington Public Schools to take action on the proposed Equity Action Plan to purposefully become an anti-racist institution by dismantling the systemic racism and structural inequality from within the K-12 education system,” states the petition.

The group offered a detailed plan for changes in areas such as diversity and including school culture and climate, support, community, staffing and Board of Education commitment.

In response, 15 school administrators stated, “First, we, as the educational leaders of Stonington Public Schools, acknowledge racism is real, pervasive, and persistent in our world, our state, and our town. It may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but to say otherwise would be untruthful. We also acknowledge that the trauma created by systemic racism is real. Recognizing these truths, we stand ready to take concrete and measurable steps to address it within our school system. We hear your voices, and we will take action.”

They stated the leadership team will lead by example and participate in meaningful conversations with trained facilitators about implicit biases.

“Without beginning our tough conversations about race and commencing our new learning about systemic racism, we cannot lead others to do the same. We will give attention to unlearning our tightly held biases. We will lead those conversations within our schools to bring new understanding and ownership of our unconscious contributions to the injustices suffered by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) inside and outside of our schools. We recognize this work is long overdue, that the work needs to be ongoing, and we will make mistakes along the way as shifts in belief systems and actions develop.”

They wrote that the curriculum design process, program offerings, and style of instruction will address the historical and current inequities experienced by people of color.

They also pointed out that while the school system is a critical component of addressing systemic racism, “we cannot be the sole actor.”

“We are committed to being a significant part of this community action, and we will not wait for others to take the initiative. We start now. Black Lives Matter. We can do better, we will do better, we must do better. We believe in you,” states the call to action.

It is signed by Superintendent of Schools Van Riley, Assistant Superintendent Mary Anne Butler, Director of Special Services Allison Van Etten, Director of Finance Gary Shettle, Director of Operations & Facilities Peter Anderson, Director of Technology Christopher Williston, high school Principal Mark Friese, high school Associate Principal Alicia Sweet-Dawe, high school Assistant Principal Margo Crowley, middle school Principal Timothy Smith, middle school Assistant Principal Deanna Brucoli, West Vine Street School Principal Kathryn Irvine, West Vine Street School Assistant Principal AnneFay Sullivan, Deans Mill School Principal Jennifer McCurdy and Deans Mill School Assistant Principal Thomas Bousquet.

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