A newly organized community group in the Greensburg Salem School District said it wants to work with the school board to address racism and racial bias and its negative effects on students.
Several members of CORES (Communities Organizing for Racial Equality in the Schools) also expressed related concerns at Wednesday’s board meeting, including further criticism of a controversial Facebook post last year by the Chairman of the Board Jeff Metrosky.
The post in question had previously drawn criticism from members of the public during the December 8 board meeting.
The post shared a joke about Kyle Rittenhouse, who a jury acquitted Nov. 19 of homicide and related charges for killing two men and wounding a third with a semi-automatic rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. These shootings took place during the 2020 protests over the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time.
The post read: “Wisconsin’s new hot drink is called a Rittenhouse. It’s a hunter followed by a shot. Everyone always orders three.
Metrosky said his personal Facebook account has no bearing on the district.
But several CORES members expressed a different view.
Christopher Davis, an English teacher at Westmoreland County Community College and father of a sixth-grader in the district, said he was prompted to join CORES because of Metrosky’s position.
“As a parent, I was a bit concerned about the kind of message this sent to my son, a black son, and particularly in terms of safety,” Davis said. “I feel my son is insecure in many ways because of this position.”
He asked the chairman of the council “What lesson should I teach my son about this Rittenhouse situation?”
“It’s between you and your son,” Metrosky replied. “You are the father, and it is up to you. It’s up to you.”
Davis said the Rittenhouse case could be an opportunity to teach lessons about vigilantism and gun violence.
“When my son asks me, ‘Well dad, how do I understand this event?’ I would love to know what the school board thinks,” Davis said. “We need instructional leadership from the board. We must be leaders for all students, in terms of integration into school, of perception by the school, particularly in terms of safety.
Maria DePasquale, a nurse and mother of two district graduates, said she emailed the school board in November expressing her concerns about Metrosky’s position. She says she received no response.
“To be ignored by the leaders of Greensburg Salem is intolerable,” she said. “This is why CORES was born.”
She said CORES wants to work with the school board to “bring people together to create a Greensburg Salem that is a truly equal place for students, families, and educators of all races and ethnicities.” She added that the group’s mission is to “prevent racist harm to our children, hold leaders accountable, and ensure access to opportunity and resources.”
Emily Tatro, a Murrysville attorney and CORES member, is a 2005 Greensburg Salem graduate and district donor. She criticized Metrosky’s post as well as a recent school board decision to label two student holidays on Greensburg Salem’s 2022-2023 calendar as Christmas vacation and Easter vacation — instead of vacation and spring break, nomenclature alternative that had been proposed by the district administrators.
Tatro said board members were “small-minded” when they opted for “Christian names for school holidays, knowing full well that there are many students and teachers who are not Christians in this district for whom you were elected Stop now and consider the impact of your actions on all the students for whom you are responsible.
Brandi Slider, a university assistant professor of early childhood and elementary education, warned of racial bias — “whether that bias is conscious or not” — affecting the way educators discipline students.
Citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Slider said 70% of students suspended at Hutchinson Elementary School in Greensburg Salem are non-white, compared to 30% who are white.
“It’s literally the opposite of the student body makeup,” which is 76% white and 24% non-white, she said.
Slider said suspension at the elementary level may be associated with lower high school graduation and school completion rates and higher engagement with the criminal justice system.
“Listen to teachers and what they decide is the professional development they need,” she told the council. “Not having training on race and racism hurts our children.”
Jeff Himler is an editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, email@example.com or via Twitter .