YORK, Maine — After anti-racism demonstrators circulated a petition calling for a better Black history curriculum in local schools, administrators said this week that they are working to make improvements.
Superintendent Lou Goscinski said he expects the School Department Inclusion Diversity Group to bring a variety of curriculum recommendations to him within the next few weeks, and he expects the group to include a recommendation regarding the Black history curriculum.
In a letter to parents, guardians, faculty and staff on Tuesday, June 16, Goscinski said combating racism is important to the district and the entire field of education.
"We are listening to the many in our country and in our community who have pointed out that public schools in America must be a part of this conversation," he wrote. "Discussions about racism are taking place on the streets, at dinner tables, between our students, and on various media platforms our students access. As educators we must support school-age children and young adults to understand the underlying historical and cultural context that is driving recent national and local events.
"The issues associated with racism are extremely complex and, given the dramatic change that is sweeping our nation with respect to it, the York School Department commits to examine the department’s curriculum, instructional practices and use of language," he continued. "We will not tolerate racism in our schools or in our curriculum."
The letter came two days after more than 300 protesters marched from Coastal Ridge Elementary School to Village Elementary School. In addition to pushing for local improvements, the demonstrators joined nationwide protests to denounce racism and injustice in response to the deaths of Black people at the hands of police, including George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Goscinski and School Committee Chairwoman Brenda Alexander also released a joint statement Wednesday, June 17, to expand on their commitment to combat racism.
"We York School Committee members must continue to listen to our students, staff and the community as we continue to develop educational policies that will support a steadfast course of action to address race in our curriculum and ensure inclusive and equitable educational practices," Alexander said.
Goscinski said Wednesday he had not yet received a list of demands from any group, but his administration is always open to meet with those who wish to provide feedback for the district.
Alexander and Goscinski urged York voters to participate in the July 14 vote on the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, saying it includes a proposal to fund three mental health counselor positions and training on equity diversion and inclusion.