Over 100 members of the Bristol community gathered at Bristol Eastern High School on Thursday, Jan. 3, to take part in the first Community Conversation about Equity, Inclusiveness, and Excellence.
Hosted by the Bristol Board of Education with the help from facilitator Kerry Lord, program coordinator at the Connecticut Center for School Change, the event allowed Bristol citizens to come together to discuss ways to make Bristol a community that strives to work for all citizens, regardless of background.
Lord, who has worked in education for 28 years, said she felt the “primary goal” for the evening was “to really get people to start talking about equity, diversity and inclusion,” and “to have a conversation, and shape that conversation, as opposed to reacting to incidents.”
“This is an opportunity for Bristol to shape the conversation that they want to have about how we can really embrace the diversity in our community and make sure that all of our students have the opportunity to reach what we’ve set forth in our vision of the graduate,” said Lord. “Nationwide, you see that schools and communities are always reacting to incidents that happen where there’s racism or incredible prejudice or bias or mistreatment or oppression. There’s all these kinds of things that are happening in the world that are happening in our schools.”
Chippens Hill Middle School eighth grader, Rosalynn Peters, stood and spoke, saying that “you can’t run a school district on assumptions.” Peters explained that in school, you are taught to never make assumptions about someone, but by assuming a student is “going home to the best role models,” could be an inaccurate assumption.
Peters, who is working on a public service announcement for CHMS regarding “everyone’s differences, and how everyone can join together to be one,” said that the best way to combat the conflicting ideas between a student’s school life and home life is to do research.
“I’m learning and I’m experiencing how so many people from so many different backgrounds can come together and work together and be a very united group, and stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. And, I’ve learned a lot on how other people think and their backgrounds,” said Peters.
Superintendent Dr. Susan Moreau said that she thought it was important for the school district to start the conversation, it is equally important for other community groups to continue the conversation.
“I think as a community, as a school district, as a nation, we’re at a crossroad of defining who we are and it’s so important for our kids to have us, as adults, lead them in that journey, and we needed to start somewhere,” said Moreau. “We think of this as the start of lots of other conversations. I don’t know if we’ll do it again but I felt that starting it was part of our work as educators because this is about our kids learning how to live well as adults in a very global society and Bristol is just a microcosm of that.”
As of the end of the night, there were no plans for another group or community member to host another community conversation. But, Lord, Moreau, and Peters all hope that more of these events occur.
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