“You must be bold, brave and courageous and find a way …,” the civil rights leader and politician John Lewis once said.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical in RSU 5’s mission to inspire and support every learner by challenging minds, building character, sparking creativity and nurturing passions. As we search for ways to provide equal opportunities for all students, each one of us must be bold, brave and courageous. It is incumbent on each of us to do our part in fulfilling our mission.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at foleyb@rsu5.org.

According to a Sept. 15, 2020, article by Peter Eavis in The New York Times, “The Boards of the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies remain overwhelmingly white. Underrepresented ethnic and racial groups make up 40 percent of the U.S. population but just 12.5 percent of board directors.”

According to Fortune 500, since 1955 only 19 of 1,800 CEOs have been Black. Our country has a long way to go towards correcting these disparities.

For the past several years, RSU 5 has been building a more inclusive environment. The work continues this year with the creation of a district-wide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committee. The committee, composed of teachers, students, parents and administrators, meets regularly to engage in meaningful discussions about building awareness and creating a culture that is more accepting of all.

Civil rights teams are being established at each school. The teams assist and support our schools in creating small moments of change that push us to a more inclusive community. This year at Durham Community School, the Civil Rights Team distributed Valentine lollipops that included a personalized message to every student emphasizing that all students matter, whatever their race, national origin, religion, disability or gender identity.


At Freeport High School, the Reducing Sexism and Violence Program, a club working to create a safe and accepting environment at the high school, reviewed and revised the student handbook to ensure that the language in the handbook contained gender-inclusive language. The Civil Rights Club hosted a student discussion after watching Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Students shared their thoughts about ways to promote diversity. They discussed the topic of race and how far society has progressed compared to 1963.

On March 12, RSU 5 is offering professional development to all staff on how to identify their own implicit bias, which may come from messages we pick up in the world around us. The first training will be foundational to the work ahead and lead to further professional development on how to have more intentional and thoughtful conversations with our students about sensitive equity topics such as race, ethnicity and gender. In addition, staff report a strong desire to have this work be authentic, sustained and proactive, with the hope of building stronger school cultures.

School districts across Maine face profound challenges as we continue on this journey. In order to move forward we must examine our own thoughts, words and actions. Over time, and with sustained work, we can transform our schools into communities where equitable opportunities exist for all. This will require courageous conversations that can oftentimes be uncomfortable. Missteps will occur! We cannot avoid missteps, but we can honor other people’s feelings and ensure that everyone’s viewpoints are respected.

We must take many steps in the months and years ahead. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” as the Chinese proverb says. Join us in this journey and take your first step!

Comments are not available on this story.