Milton High School Principal James Jette was named Interim School Superintendent on Aug. 2 and within two weeks was forced to defend himself against an anonymous letter maligning this beloved administrator who dared to Lead While Black.

This chilling event reminds us of the anonymous act of malice against Black faculty member Ms. Zakia Jarrett. She dared to Teach While Black, leading her students in an important discussion about racism following the Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd murders.

This attempt to discredit Mr. Jette is another opportunity to examine how racism — whether structural or interpersonal — operates and is perpetuated. Our organizations support Interim Superintendent Jette in the face of this aggression.

There is no doubt that racism is alive and well in Milton. A Milton Times reader on Sept. 10 misrepresented the Milton Anti-Racist Coalition’s demand that the School Committee conduct a national search for an educational leader with experience leading a diverse district, preferably a person of color.

The reader also suggested that race is not relevant to education. Yet systemic racism has defined and shaped the way race plays out in all aspects of life in the United States for centuries. Consequently, it matters deeply whether students of color and students who are white have teachers and administrators of color.

What Mr. Jette, Ms. Jarrett, and every Milton resident should know is that this year has been one of awakening and action in Milton, borne of years of advocacy and painstaking work to address systemic racism in our school system and our town.

We will not go back.

Parents, teachers, and others have affirmed what kind of Milton we want to be by taking to the streets to support Ms. Jarrett and to demand change; by sharing painful stories with the School Committee and school administrators; and by demanding that systemic racism be dismantled in the Milton Public Schools.

We’ve seen tangible results.

Already, the School Committee has adopted MARC’s “Anti-Racist Excellence with Equity” platform. Already, the School Department has undertaken an independent race and equity audit of the entire system; is creating an Action Team to draft an Anti-Racism Action Plan; and has created the position of Director of Educational Equity to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and anti-racism.

We will not go back.

Already, at the Pierce, accelerated classes have been paused, continuing a policy direction long-advocated by Citizens for a Diverse Milton, established by Superintendent Dr. Mary Grassa-O’Neill, and expanded by Dr. Magdalene Giffune and Ms. Mary Gormley.

Thus far, the elimination of leveling in the primary and middle grades has raised expectations for all students to achieve excellence.

Last spring, Milton resident Dr. Régine Jean-Charles wrote an op-ed (June 17) in The Boston Globe and asked us, “What kind of town do we want to be?”

We already know the answer: a town where all students have equitable access to and experience of an excellent education.

2020 has challenged Milton and 2020 has changed Milton for the better.

We will not go back.

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