We waited for over 11 days for a response on this issue from Mayor Neil O’Leary, Superintendent Ouellette, and the Waterbury Board of Education. No official response has been given.
At the conclusion of the 12/17/15 Waterbury Board of Education meeting President Liz Brown approached our co-founder in an aggressive and inappropriate manner. She violated Dr. Arias’ personal space and accused Dr. Arias of lying in a public forum, and did so in front of numerous people. Click here to read Dr. Arias’ address.
First, Dr. Arias is not a liar, and there are consequences for defaming any person, but especially a respected professional, who has dedicated herself to being an advocate for our underserved and under-protected children here in Waterbury.
Second, we have proof that Waterbury Public School professionals misrepresented the facts about the production and availability of documents that outlined the district’s plans for improving minority teacher recruitment and retention. When we asked this question; “Are there final reports available? Can we have an electronic copy of the final report of the MTRR Planning Grant, and the district’s plan submitted to the CSDE?” We were given these answers:
“We will present the final product to the Board of Education at a public hearing when it is ready. The work we have done so far has been shared with the Board and the public, and the work we continue to do is not finalized. I am not clear what concerns RACCE has in regards to the text of the grant, but this information has not been shared because it is not completed.” (11/24/15)
“What you are requesting has not been shared because again, it is not complete.” (11/30/15)
*Access to these email communications will be granted on an individual basis.
We understood from the language of the MTRR Planning Grant, Waterbury BOE meeting minutes, and meeting minutes from the State BOE that the final report was submitted on June 30, 2015; and a final presentation was given to the CSDE on July 27, 2015. We eventually gained access to one of these documents on 12/10/15 via the CSDE and on 12/29/15 we were informed our FOIA request was granted for the other documents.
This makes Liz Brown’s statements in the paper utterly false. There is no dispute or disagreement. Only Brown’s distortions of reality. Prior to 12/10/15, Dr. Arias was not given access to documents that existed and was told that these documents were not available, when in fact they were. These reports, presentations, and data are very important to fulfilling her mission on the State Legislative Task Force for Minority Teacher Recruitment and Retention.
Is Liz Brown purposely misleading the public? Is she purposely withholding information that reveals “62% of Black and Hispanic teachers surveyed say they have felt discriminated against in their current positions.”? (pg 13-14) What has the district done to address this, or the Mayor, or the teachers union (WTA)? Does she not have an understanding of the process Waterbury Public School’s used to create a plan to improve the outcomes of their minority teacher recruitment and retention practices? It should be noted that Liz Brown was a recipient of an email request for these documents on 12/9/15/. She gave no response.
We must admit, any combination of these scenarios would be bad for the Waterbury BOE, bad for the Waterbury Public Schools, and bad for our students of color.
Lastly, Liz Brown used her position of power to embarrass and attack a community leader who doesn’t need to defend her work or the work our organization has done. The very nature of this attack is seated within the psyche of Liz Brown. She displayed how fragile her psyche is; and the moment she lashed out at a member of the public should be the moment she becomes disqualified from being an elected official, let it alone be the President of the Waterbury Board of Education.
Liz Brown’s actions are most aptly explained through the lens of White Fragility (WF). Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D., an academic leader in the field of Social Justice in Education defines WF as a “state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.” Liz Brown displayed some of those exact behaviors. DiAngelo also makes it clear that when white people’s racial psyches are fragile they will choose to “distort and pervert reality” as a way to maintain power over black and brown people. Liz Brown’s statements in the Waterbury Republican American article about this incident are distorting and perverting reality. Liz Brown’s is a victim of her own White Fragility; this also uniquely disqualifies her as the BOE President who oversees a district made up of 80% non-white students.
If she doesn’t publicly apologize; if she doesn’t publicly acknowledge the factual nature of RACCE’s and Dr. Arias’ work as educational advocates; and if she doesn’t sign a pledge agreeing to not act in this manner again; we believe she should resign.
Categories: Current Issues