Mid-valley school district leaders, in collaboration with the NAACP's Corvallis/Albany branch, signed a proclamation Thursday declaring their dedication to racial equity in the communities they serve.
"Our mission is to confront, interrupt, and dismantle systems of inequity that persist for our students, staff, and families of color," the proclamation reads. "Our call to action is to identify and address the racial disparities and inequities that persist in schools."
Angel Harris, president of the local NAACP, as well as Superintendents Tonja Everest of the Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District, Ryan Noss of the Corvallis School District, Philip "Buzz" Brazeau of the Philomath School District, Melissa Goff of Greater Albany Public Schools and Bo Yates of the Lebanon Community School District signed the proclamation outside of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center at Oregon State University.
The proclamation outlines continued collaboration between the districts and community organizations, teaching critical race theory, professional development and identification of systemic inequities as some of the ways mid-valley schools can improve their pursuit of racial equity.
CSD Equity Coordinator Marcianne Rivero Koetje, who organized the event, said that, titles aside, all of these people are educators who should be dedicated to serving everyone in their communities in an equitable fashion.
"It's more than words on a page," she said. "It's about keeping students, staff and families of color at the center of everything we do."
"That hasn't been the case," added Harris. "That's important to keep in mind moving forward."
In May 2019, the five districts began conversations with the regional NAACP chapter about how they could establish a united front to show their support of mid-valley residents of color to rely on their schools.
The resulting proclamation, Koetje said, is a "manifestation of that work."
After each district head took turns signing the proclamation, Harris led the group in singing "We Shall Overcome," an anthem of the civil rights movement.
"This is not a spur of the moment," said Corvallis School Board Chair Sami Al-AbdRabbuh. "This is years and years of collaboration with the NAACP."
Harris and Koetje echoed Al-AbdRabbuh's sentiment that the decision for a proclamation is not simply a gesture given the current civil rights movement. "It's not an afterthought," Koetje said — it's only the beginning of something bigger.
"We get to hold each other accountable to the words on this paper," Harris said. "This is just another victory right now and we get to keep doing the work."
Reporter Nia Tariq can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.