ORLEANS — The Nauset school system has talked the talk, and many members even walked the walk at the well-attended June 5 march in support of Black Lives Matter. Last week, the regional school committee took another step by endorsing an anti-racism resolution being circulated by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees that seeks to ensure “that racist practices are eradicated, and diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded for our students, families, faculty and staff.”
At the committee’s June 11 meeting, Nauset Regional High School Principal Chris Elsasser had high praise for the students who organized the march, which drew around 1,000 participants.
“The girls who put that together, they did that on their own,” he said. “It speaks to the quality of their education. They don’t really need us. We educated them up. They know what to do. It was an amazing day to see so many white people walking for such a cause. That is gonna be the change. It’s not what it looked like in the '60s.”
“I never thought I’d see a march like that take place in Orleans,” said member Richard Stewart. Elsasser responded, “It speaks volumes to people who have been suffering a very long time that we are all now paying attention.”
“I, too, along with Chris and (middle school principal) Julie (Kobold) am proud to say we marched on that protest day,” Superintendent Tom Conrad said. “It was very important for the kids to see us walking shoulder to shoulder with them on such an important topic. We can be proud for the girls who led that charge, and the hundreds of Nauset people there supporting this effort.
“Enough is enough, right? It is time for change.”
The change called for in the resolution the committee approved last week is wide-ranging and demanding. It requires schools to provide annual professional development for all staff and school committee members on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and requires a commitment to “recruiting and retaining a diverse and culturally responsive teaching workforce” and an examination of “policies for institutional and systemic racialized practices.”
The resolution reads, “every district will incorporate into their curriculum the history of racial oppression and works by Black authors and works from diverse perspectives.” It concludes, “We must ensure our own school culture and that of every district in the Commonwealth is anti-racist, that acknowledges that all lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.”
During a discussion later in the July 9 meeting of a proposed summer retreat for members, Stewart said, “There should be some discussion addressing the race question. Based on the resolution, we’ve really got to drill into it and look to see how even well-intentioned people and institutions might perpetuate residual racism in our system unintentionally. That’s one of the problems that’s surfacing in this period. That’s gonna be tough to address, and we ought to take some time to do that. Systemic racism is what I’m getting at.”
Last week, another resolution advanced by the association of school committees received unanimous approval from the Nauset board as well. “It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that each school district is able to pay for the enormous additional staffing, transportation and material expenses required” to “re-open this fall in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic,” according to the document. The state “cannot expect COVID-19 safety guidelines to be followed without also ensuring that each school district has the funds required to implement these guidelines,” the document declares, adding that the state “must guarantee every school district full reimbursement for whatever COVID-19 expenses are required to follow state mandates.”
At its July 9 meeting, high school building committee chair Greg Levasseur told the regional board that contracts with the project’s architect and owner’s project manager have been extended through May of next year, using funds remaining from the original feasibility study. That timeline coincides with the new deadline for voter approval of the project that was granted by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.