Rochester Selectmen hear from anti-racism group about school efforts

Aug 3, 2020

ROCHESTER — Anti-racism group Tri-Town Against Racism has seen the Old Rochester Regional School District make progress on addressing prejudice in its schools, leaders told Rochester Selectmen on Aug. 3. 

One of the group’s founders, Alison Noyce, said although the group gained traction after the death of Minnesota man George Floyd in May, it started after a racist incident at Old Rochester Regional High School. 

Its leaders, Barbara Sullivan, Tangi Thomas, Noyce and Jen Hunter run a Facebook page with over 1,000 members. They have also had people ask to join outside of social media. 

And, in a critical step, “the Black community has reached out and opened us to us about their stories of experiencing racism in our school,” Noyce said, adding that, “it’s been kept a little bit underground so to speak.” 

However, the group approached the Old Rochester Regional School System in June and came away feeling very positively about that effort. “We felt very supported,” by administrators, Noyce said. 

As a result, Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School has also reached out to the group, which plans to speak at the school’s administration retreat. 

The new group has also collected 295 books on diversity for school and local libraries. 

Selectman Paul Ciaburri asked if Noyce and other leaders were happy with the responses of the Tri-Town principals and superintendent. 

Noyce said that they were. While raising her two Black children she often felt that “I was addressed properly,” in response to specific incidents, “but the systemic problem was not.” 

She felt that in the past “the schools were even afraid to say ‘racism.’  They were afraid to say ‘there’s racism here, let’s address this.” 

But now “there’s an openness that I’ve never seen before, to admitting there’s a problem and really working to change,” Noyce said.  

Selectmen asked the group’s  leaders to “keep us informed,” and Noyce and Thomas said that they would.