Here is the complete, unedited Public Statement of Support for North High School and Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone from a coalition of Worcester minority community leaders and their allies: – R.T.
A group of several leaders of color which include faith-based leaders, educators, activists, youth workers, cultural groups and multi service organizations have been meeting weekly since January to discuss how we can leverage our collective leadership capacity to address community needs for all residents in our city.
Given the recent events surrounding North High School, we felt it pertinent to respond in support of our over 25,000 students in the public school system, comprised of more than 60% students of color and 70% low-income students. Many of us in the community share a deep concern for the urgent and ongoing needs at North High School and have been incredibly alarmed by the inflammatory comments being made about our children by the general public.
We stand with the North High School community to embrace the best version of what the school truly represents in our community. We applaud the students who have demonstrated such strong resilience and commitment to their education and the parents who are stepping up to reclaim the narrative for their school. We appreciate the teachers and administrative staff who show up everyday with one agenda in mind and that is to educate our students.
We requested and were presented with a meeting to discuss our concerns with Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Lisa Dyer, Principal of North High School, Joseph Petty, Mayor of the City of Worcester and Edward Augustus, Worcester City Manager. We want to thank Dr. Boone, Principal Dyer, Mayor Petty and City Manager Augustus for responding to our sense of urgency around this matter.
Both Dr. Boone and Principal Dyer presented us with a timeline of events and response to those events. We found that the information provided helped to dispel myths about the school, which have been perpetuated by local media and self-serving politicians. It became clear to us that a campaign of misinformation has been waged against the school. While there have been incidents of concern, the level of scrutiny received by the school has been misplaced and counterproductive to the school and administration’s efforts to create a positive climate for students and faculty.
We urge the Worcester School Committee to work with community partners to support the efforts led by the Superintendent and North High School administration.
We strongly agree with many of the targeted and universal approaches being taken and support the school and administration in their efforts to:
Engage students, parents and faculty in these important dialogues.
Expand North High’s effective restorative justice programming beyond the ninth grade
Address the structural challenges which can contribute to interpersonal violence in the schools such as the number of transitions during the school day and additional support for special education programming at the school
We also think there is room for improvement within the school safety plan and we have full confidence that we can approach existing school leadership and administration around our concerns. In particular, we believe the increased police presence and police surveillance at North High School is a reactionary response to increase the perception of safety.
However, this should not be a short-term or long-term solution. Research has shown that the more encounters young people have with the police, the more opportunities for unnecessary arrests and involvement with the juvenile justice system. We propose that Worcester Public School’s focus on identifying the root causes that have contributed to the cultural climate of the school and has led to the perception that North High School is unsafe.
Specifically we recommend the school revisit its plans and:
Decrease police presence in the schools and increase trained, culturally competent parent liaisons and/or highly experienced youth workers who can be the ears on the ground, responding to conflict before it arises and building strong networks of support among faculty, staff and the student body.
Engage leadership from communities of color, who are largely underrepresented in the school’s faculty, administration and community partners at the school, in both the planning and implementation of community-based strategies to support students, parents and faculty.
Review school personnel policies around the use of social media to ensure that public comments and posts by school personnel do not perpetuate racial bias against students of color and racial discrimination under the law.
Reallocate teacher professional development resources to support district-wide inclusion training.
We look forward to working with and supporting the students, parents, faculty and administration at the school as well as working with the Educational Association of Worcester whose mission includes cultivating a spirit of understanding and good will among its members and the community. As in the past, when our communities are collectively called to action in focused ways, we can be a strong enough force to help turn the tide in a positive direction for our children.
The following organizations and groups stand with leaders in support of this statement:
Belmont A..M.E. Zion Church
Black Clergy Alliance
Centro Las Americas
Christian Community Church & The Shalom Neighborhood Center
Discrimination Law Agency Advocates
Future Focus Media Cooperative and Youth Training Institute
Men of Color Think Tank
Mosaic Cultural Complex
Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church
Our Story Edutainment
Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center
Women of Color in Solidarity
Worcester Latino Ministers Alliance
Worcester Roots Project
YWCA of Central Massachusetts
Order of Speakers:
Independent Community Activist
North High School Parent
President and CEO of Mosaic Cultural Complex
Joyce McNickles, Ed.D,
Adjunct Professor, Emmanuel College
Social Justice Educator and Consultant
Co-Chair of the YWCA Racial Justice Task Force
Community Organizer and Equity Consultant