Stand in Solidarity With Worcester Public School Students of Color

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Jessenia Kolaco
Jessenia Kolaco signed this petition

We are here as the Youth Civics Union, the HOPE Coalition, and the Worcester Youth Movement. All of these youth organizations are comprised of Worcester Public School Students, and we are all extremely dissatisfied with the superintendent and the school committee, as they have failed to address the larger issues of systemic racism that are plaguing our schools. Under superintendent Binienda’s administration, drastic disproportionalities within the discipline rates and suspensions amongst students of color, specifically Latino students continues to persist, and ELL dropout rates are extremely high . Additionally superintendent Binienda’s administration was responsible for 60% of all the emergency removals state wide. When asked if structural racism exist in the WPS because the student body is comprised of a majority of students of color (about 70%), yet the teacher force is predominately white (about 90%) her response was “well I don’t like to label” sending the message that having teachers of diverse backgrounds is not important to her. The superintendent continues to be dismissive of our experiences as students of color stating “I have never in all my 43 years heard a teacher or administrator speak in a way to a student that would be racist towards students.” We hate to break it to you superintendent Binienda, but your perception of the WPS being a utopia free of racism is flawed, ignorant, and shows how disconnected you are from us as students of color.

The superintendent claims to be a role model to thousands of students and work collaboratively with community, but she has yet to contact us, and instead has been dismissive of our research stating “it should have never happened.” Is this the kind of individual we want representing us as students, as she devalues and tries to silence student voice? Additionally, she has allowed school committee member John Monfredo, her biggest supporter to call us pawns for adults and discredit our work. We as WPS students from The Youth Civics Union, The Hope Coalition, and The Worcester Youth Movement are standing in solidarity with one another in demanding that the superintendent's contract not be reinstated for initiating the harassment of students by taking them out of class to be interrogated about an afterschool group that is not under her jurisdiction, making inappropriate racial assumptions towards students of color, being dismissive of our voices and experiences as students of color, and for her failure to address and acknowledge the larger issues of systemic racism we all have experienced. The superintendent has crossed boundaries of power, by attempting to intimidate us as students, because we are exposing truths that are uncomfortable. But we are not going to stand down and let the superintendent bully us as students. Our voices will be heard. Racism is real and it is happening in the Worcester public schools, and it needs to be addressed, starting with the immediate removal of the superintendent.

Our experiences as students of color led the YCU decided to engage in a participatory action research initiative on teacher diversity in the Worcester Public Schools. A few weeks ago we were invited to the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Education Equity to give a formal presentation of our research study. The superintendent, Maureen Binienda was present at this meeting, and we were appalled by her disrespectful and unprofessional actions. As one of the youth presenting, I heard the Superintendent speaking under her breath and murmuring while we were presenting our project to the commission, and others who were present at the meeting can attest to this fact. Additionally, she proceeded to make an inappropriate culturally insensitive remark, stating that “Asian students don’t want to be teachers, because they only pursue careers as doctors or nurses.” Furthermore, 2 days later, 2 of our members of YCU that were presenters at the mayor’s commission meeting were pulled out of class at the superintendents request, and were interrogated on information concerning our action project by their principals, despite the fact that this is an entirely youth-led project through social media, and operates off of school grounds. If the superintendent was so concerned about our data, she could have contacted the Mayor’s commission, instead of pulling students out of class and taking time away from their learning.