RSU 71, comprising the public schools of Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont, and Swanville, has issued the following statement on the death of George Floyd:
RSU 71 is saddened and disturbed by the racist actions that led to the killing of George Floyd, and actively condemns any instance of explicit or systemic racism in our world. His death has yet again demonstrated the need for all of us as Americans to come together and work to create a society that respects and values all of our people.
As educators, we take very seriously our responsibility to teach and grow the next generation and support their desire to create a world that will be better tomorrow than it is today. We wish to express to our community that we are committed to the rights of our black students -- indeed to the rights of students and staff of every race -- and that we are letting them know that we support them and will ensure that they can learn and work in a community that is safe and accepting.
We also hope that this message demonstrates to all of our students that it is time to stand up for equality, acceptance, and justice in our community.
We take great pride in the work that we do and understand that we as an organization have an opportunity and duty to ensure that our schools are places of acceptance and equality. In the year to come, we promise that we will continue to work to ensure that our schools support the needs of our black students and staff members, and provide opportunities for students of all races to think and talk about the racial injustices that have plagued our country. Our district will:
1. Create a Task Force to Eradicate Racism Through Education;
2. Take the time to examine our practices and ensure that we are removing any institutional bias that may exist in our own systems and organizations;
3. Ensure that our curriculum and libraries represent multicultural viewpoints and experiences;
4. Purposefully listen to and value black voices in our community and work diligently to further our commitment to racial equality;
5. Continue to partner with Maine’s Civil Right Project and its director, Brandon Baldwin, who has done training for all K-5 staff and all administrators this year, and is already committed to work with middle school and high school staff in August;
6. Strengthen the support for our RSU 71 Civil Rights Teams, which have long existed at Belfast Area High School, Troy Howard Middle School, Captain Albert Stevens School, and the Ames Elementary School. The students and faculty advisors on these teams need all of us to shine the spotlight of recognition for the contributions they make to our school district, its towns, and our great state of Maine.
Together as teachers, administrators, and support staff, we will demonstrate our commitment to end racism in America and set an example for our students to follow in pursuit of a more just world.
We conclude with a quote from Smith College President Kathleen McCartney:
The deliberate and brazen suffocation of George Floyd by a police officer, while three other officers stood by and did not intervene, is emblematic of the suffering Black people have endured in this country for more than 400 years. It is little wonder that our nation is convulsed with anger and anguish as it confronts the horrific legacy of slavery as well as the pernicious effects of institutional and societal racism that endure to this day. It is time to acknowledge that the work of anti-racism is white people's work.
As we bear witness to the entrenched pain of Black people who are telling us that they are "not okay," we must learn how to be more effective allies by truly reflecting on our privilege -- and risking that privilege in moments that matter. Beyond vigils, beyond marches, we must commit ourselves to learning and to action.
Sincerely, Mary Alice McLean, RSU 71 Superintendent of Schools
Caitlin Hills, Chair, RSU 71 School Board Chair
Jess Woods, RSU 71 Board Member
Laura Miller, Assistant Superintendent & Director of Curriculum
Colden Golann, Assistant Principal, Belfast Area High School
Glen Widmer, Principal, Captain Albert Stevens School
Ashley Reynolds, Assistant Principal, Captain Albert Stevens School
Elizabeth Wakem, Principal, East Belfast, and Kermit Nickerson Schools
Bruce Bailey, Principal, Troy Howard Middle School
Alta Seekins, Assistant Principal, Troy Howard Middle School
Dr. Dave Fournier, Director of Technology, RSU 71