METCO to districts: Do more to stop racism

BOSTON — Over 30 public school district leaders from schools that partner with the Metropolitan Council For Educational Opportunity, or METCO, gathered in Hyde Park for a showing of unity.

“I think that this shows promise,” said Milly Arbaje-Thomas, President and CEO of METCO, before the news conference began.

The idea for this type of public event came from Needham schools superintendent, Dan Gutekanst, who is also a METCO board member.

“We felt it was important for the districts involved in the METCO program to make a stand with the black community and in particular with our students and families of color,” Gutekanst said.

After speaking for several minutes, Arbaje-Thomas turned from the microphone toward the superintendents behind her and challenged them.

“I want to see a commitment to diversity in their teaching staff,” Arbaje-Thomas said. “I want to see a commitment to equitable discipline practices. I want to see a curriculum that is diverse where our students can see themselves represented.”

As public education leaders spoke, there were more than just reporters standing at McGann Playground. The Garver family of Belmont drove to Boston to listen and learn.

Kylia Garver says her son, Miles has been hearing more about the protests and reasons for them.

“They’ve been reading and talking about it in their class and their homerooms the injustices people of color are facing across the country and what we need to do something to show support and solidarity,” said Garver.

Her husband, Matt, says the family is committed to doing more than attending events.

“We're here to listen and know we haven't done enough and so we are trying to do what we can to do more,” said Matt Garver.

Despite being one of the oldest school integration programs in the nation, racism remains pervasive for METCO students attending predominately white suburban schools.

“We talk about those issues we don't hide from them,” said Gutekanst.

In Brookline, in 2017, high school students held a walk-out after a video surfaced on the social media app Snapchat showing students uttering racial slurs.

A year before, there were allegations of verbal assaults against METCO students in Arlington.

Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes profiled equity in education focused on the METCO program in 2019.

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