News & Events

News from OWOF – August 2021

OWOF Supporters –

This is a special newsletter to follow up on the matters with the School Board. In the last newsletter, we discussed support for the Diversity, Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion efforts of the Chelsea School District. The situation has developed, to say the least, and we want to bring you up-to-date and to share a very important call to action.

Note – all of this directly flows from the anti-CRT actions happening in school systems nation-wide. Chelsea is not the only community facing these challenges. This is very much an example of how racism and discrimination can manifest in small, rural, mostly-white towns; and is a struggle we cannot afford to ignore.

Background

Last Monday night a sub-committee of the Chelsea School Board met to hear about the work of the Diversity, Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion Committee within the CSD. Joanne, of OWOF, and several others, stated support for the work of the committee. The majority of the speakers during public comment, however, were angrily attacking the goals of DBEI. These angry statements were recorded and posted online in a public Facebook group.

One particular video segment is the source of great community anger and tension: A non-Chelsea resident read a graphic segment from Toni Morrison’s book, The Bluest Eye, describing a predator’s behavior and thoughts without any discussion of the context of the passage or the point of the book. She also said that this book came from the resources reading list posted by the DBEI Committee and (incorrectly) said that this passage is what is being taught in our schools.

This inflammatory video segment has gone viral and the comments have largely been of outrage and anger against the Board and the DBEI Committee, some even expressing violent intentions. The administrators of the FB page have been deleting moderating or explanatory statements. The video now has well over 300 comments and has been shared over 800 times. Further, because OWOF supporters donated books to the schools from this list, there have been (incorrect) statements that OWOF is involved in teaching this kind of material and that we provided the book and the list.

CHS English teacher, Adam Schilt, shared an excellent statement about the book and the situation on social media. Of course, his statement has not circulated as widely, but you can read it HERE and see one local educator’s opinion.

Additionally, the OWOF Board has created a public statement that will be published in the Chelsea Update on August 20, as well as in The Sun Times News online. As we said in the last newsletter, we will always work to keep our statements positive about what OWOF supports. The statement emphasizes that the goals of the DBEI are closely aligned with the goals of OWOF. Click HERE to read the OWOF public statement online.

What We Can Do

The teachers, administration and School Board need our support for their DBEI efforts! The publishers of the video and many of the commenters have called for people to come to the school board meeting on Monday, August 23. There is also a call out for supporters of the teachers and School Board to show up at the meeting to express support. This meeting could become very tense, especially as school masking requirements are changing. The School Board meeting room is not that large and most speakers will be sitting in an overflow room. For this reason, OWOF is emphasizing the need to write letters and emails to the school board, the administrators, and teachers that you know! We do need people to come out and OWOF will be making a statement, but the most important action is to flood the schools with support.

Here are the relevant email addresses as well as a LINK to the directory on the school website. Please use the talking points from the OWOF statement or just say that you support the DBEI efforts. Numbers, not eloquence, count!!! Copy, paste, send!

jhelber@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
kvanreesema@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
squilter@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
jeyster@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
lbush@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
tlehman@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
kpoulter@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
ewilkinson@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
mkaemming@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
hconklin@chelsea.k12.mi.us,
afranco@chelsea.k12.mi.us

Please let us know your thoughts. Email owofchelsea@gmail.com. We can share your comments.

Sincerely,
The OWOF Team