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Pam Murray

Holts Summit

Dear Editor:

Superintendent of Schools Larry Linthacum has proposed holding small listening sessions to address systemic racism in our community. Hopefully Linthacum will listen this time. And act.

I was on the school board in 2017 when local teens circulated a racist and anti-Semitic photograph. When I saw the photo and accompanying text, I requested the board hold a special meeting to address it; this was declined by the board president and superintendent. Instead a letter was sent out blaming the actions on poor use of social media. The faith community stepped up and held three community sessions followed by three school district sessions.

Through these six meetings, major issues were identified: lack of minority teaching staff; lack of curriculum addressing minority issues/history; and uneven discipline practices. Just what came of these major areas? Linthacum reports an increase in minority hiring, is the increase in teaching positions? How many minority hires stay?

During my time on the school board (April 2015-18), I saw many opportunities for the district to advance in personnel practices and student support. Time after time, suggestions were ignored; students and staff were marginalized if they spoke up (perhaps it was no accident that more than a handful of discrimination suits were filed against the district during Linthacum's tenure) and other board members went to great lengths to avoid difficult discussions. Diversity training provided through a grant was weakly supported and optional.

So, my questions to Linthacum are: Have hiring practices changed to achieve a more diverse teaching staff? How has the curriculum changed to incorporate Black, Native American and Women's history? (Do you accept that Black and Native American history is American history?) Are minority authors included widely in English language arts classes? Are teachers at all grade levels free to incorporate these and other topics into their classroom instruction? Will your listening sessions be open to the public and the press?

The lack of follow-up with the community following the 2017 incident leaves me with little hope for another listening tour by Linthacum. My hope is that Linthacum and the elected Board of Education will choose to be part of the solution this time, but history tells me you have been part of the problem. I hope I will be proven wrong, that this time will be different.

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