Message from Rachelle Engler Bennett, Associate Commissioner, Student and Family Support
On behalf of my DESE colleagues across offices, I am writing during a time of heightened attention to the ever-present need for racial justice and all forms of equity, in the wake of the deeply disturbing and violent deaths of African Americans including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others. Painfully, generations of systemic inequities based on race and ethnicity, compounded by intersectionality with sexual orientation and gender identity, language, ability, and more have tragic consequences for individuals, communities, and humanity as a whole. In this vein, I recognize that the current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting individuals and communities inequitably across the state, as can be seen in disproportionate rates of illness, hospitalization, and death by race and ethnicity. Those of us with privilege need to continue to increasingly reflect and find ways to better contribute to what is helpful, not harmful.
During these especially challenging times - and always - I greatly appreciate what you do to help all students engage in learning and to further develop the skills they need for the next grade level and for their lives in our diverse and global community. As essential components of this work, I am grateful for efforts you are making to strengthen both students’ and adults’ ability to attend to health and wellbeing; to grapple with challenging and unavoidable truths; and to navigate communication amongst dramatically different perspectives. We collectively rely on your important role, in partnership with families, community organizations, DESE, and others to help bring about a more fair and just world. As offered by Commissioner Riley, “Despite the anger, sadness, and frustration that many of us feel, I hope we will use this moment to bring about much-needed positive changes. Thank you for everything you do to support our students.”