Last week at a Black Lives Matter rally, Xavier Botana, superintendent of Portland Public Schools, made a powerful statement on the steps of City Hall. I am proud to work for a district that has leadership committing to dismantle the systemic institutional racial inequalities in our schools and community.

This is not a time for anemic and placating comments from our leaders in the community. It is a time for courageous leadership willing to push us to examine and extricate racism in our schools and curriculum in order to create a just society with true opportunity for all.

“Education is progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” (Will Durant). This quote reminds us both of our personal responsibility as people who chose to be educators to understand our biases (ignorance); and it also reminds us of the imperative to have perspectives from Black and Brown people, Indigenous people, People of Color (BIPOC) in the school curriculum. The alternative? We deliberately ignore BIPOC perspectives and willingly contribute to spreading the virus of  inequality and injustice.

Finally, if we are willing and require our students to say the Pledge of Allegiance to this country where the words “liberty and justice for all” falls daily from our lips, then we better roll up our sleeves and start the deep work of transforming ourselves and our institutions to make this a truth.

I implore the school committee and PPS staff to unwaveringly commit to the changes required.

Naila Wissa
Staff, Portland Public Schools