Discussion among faculty and administration combat racism in East Lyme schools
The recent Oct. 9 Professional Development (PD) Day for EL teachers and administrators
addressed how to identify personal biases and investigate how best to combat racism
in schools. The Great Schools Partnership is a non- profit school-support organization that focuses on reforming practices, policies, and support systems within schools. It changes public perceptions
into one that commits to educational equity, and provided the curriculum for the day. ELHS Family and
Consumer Science teachers Colleen Foster, Molly Goldreich, and Joanna Hildebrand said they were
expecting to receive a “how to guide” for talking to students about racism, and that didn’t happen. Instead, faculty unpacked their own biases in order to improve their conversation habits with students.
The program included five sessions of Zoom Breakout room sessions to discuss personal stories, systemic racism, the big picture impact of racism in communities, normalized racism, and microaggressions.
The systemic racism presentation investigated historical examples of federal discrimination
that continue to prevent Black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC) from the same
opportunities given to white Americans, such as the G.I. Bill of 1944.
“[When I learned history in school, I] learned about how great the G.I. Bill was for helping veterans who were home from World War II find jobs, housing, and college assistance. [Faculty] learned during [the PD Day] that the bill was inherently racist, denied many of these [opportunities] to [BIPOC veterans,]
and provided some precedence for later bills that denied housing, jobs, and college assistance to
Black people in general,” said math teacher Kelly Nelson.
The takeaway that echoed across faculty was that this could not be the only PD Day spent talking about how to fight racism in schools.
“This was the first step towards what should be a continuous education for teachers,
students and the district…Although it might be long overdue, [the EL district] finally [has] the momentum and the backing of the Board of Education to do it,” said Ms. Nelson.