School committee members bring up anti-racism suggestions

Jun 11, 2020

On June 11, Old Rochester Regional Joint School Committee members made suggestions to district administrators on how to combat racism and prepared for another meeting on the topic scheduled for June 15. 

Committee member Shannon Finning said she wanted to see students from underrepresented populations (particularly low income students, or students of color) supported by the district. 

She thought the school committee should focus on diversifying its staff, particularly in the central office. 

School Committee member Sharon Hartley urged the policy subcommittee to draft an anti-racist policy. 

Old Rochester Regional High School Principal Michael Devoll agreed, saying at his level “We are only as good as our handbook at the moment.” 

Devoll also pointed out that given the current circumstances with coronavirus the district has to be prepared to do the hard anti-racism work remotely. 

One member of the policy subcommittee, Heather Burke, agreed it would be a good goal, but asked fellow committee members to show up for the conversation. 

“There’s many more representatives that are supposed to come, but sometimes it would just be me and Tina [Rood] who would show up because she had an opinion,” Burke said. 

She also called on administrators to teach something on race at every professional development day rather than dedicating just one development day a year to it. 

Michael Nelson, who will take over as the district’s Superintendent July 1, said he is committed to listening to the idea, and others. 

Finning echoed this idea when she reminded fellow committee members that at the special meeting on the topic with town officials, police chiefs and school community members, “we can’t change how someone feels, their feelings are valid and we should try our best not to be defensive.” 

Instead, she asked committee members to “have open ears, eyes, minds and hearts.” 

In closing comments, Finning reminded her peers that “everyone is at a different point of the journey,” of combating racism and “it’s not a destination we will get to and say ‘check,’” that is done.