Rowland Conference Opening Remarks

23 October 2019

by Dan French, Secretary of EducationSecretary of Education Dan French

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here this morning to welcome you to this year’s Rowland Foundation Conference. I would like to thank the Rowland Foundation for its work on behalf of Vermont’s education system. The Foundation’s focus on supporting teachers in their professional development while also supporting the development of their schools and school districts has been one of the many reasons our education system has been so successful.

The theme of this year’s conference, combating institutional racism, could not be more timely. Our education system needs to be more accessible than ever to all of our students. In a time when some of our national leaders set such a poor example for our students, our society needs to hear loud and clear from educators that intolerance, racism and bigotry are antithetical to the larger common good that is our public education system.

We have much to be proud of, but we all know we have a lot of work to do to ensure every Vermont student can access a high quality education. As Secretary, I see that work in the context of our mutual responsibility. We are just now coming out from the shadow of the No Child Left Behind Act and its accountability paradigm. I think the work before all of us now is not so much accountability but responsibility - we need to become emboldened as educators to take responsibility for the systems and organizations that we, as adults, control.

That is why I am so pleased to see so many teams here. You have an opportunity today to have focused conversations about the structures in your schools that have institutionalized inequality, and as teams, you have the power to identify specific solutions that might work for you. But most importantly, as teams, you can strive to enact those solutions after you leave this conference today, to hold each other mutually responsible for the instructional systems you supervise.

I am not sure to what extent Mr. Scranton advertised that today would be a day of hard work, but we are very appreciative of you taking the time away from your busy schedules to focus on examining systemic barriers to equal opportunity in your school systems, to learn from each other, and to share your learning with your colleagues who are not in attendance today.

The success of this conference has always been based on a mix of your willingness to share your work and to learn from each other coupled with stimulating ideas from national-level speakers. Dr. DiAngelo’s keynote will no doubt provide that catalyst for us to reflect not only on our Vermont context, but also the broader societal factors that contribute to institutionalized racism and inequality.

Thank you for your work. I hope you have an enjoyable and productive conference. Thank you.

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Secretary Daniel M. French
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