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PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS

33 East Main Street, Portland, Connecticut 06480


Telephone: 860-342-6790 Fax: 860-342-6791

Philip B. O’Reilly, Ed.D.


Superintendent of Schools

June 2, 2020

Good Morning Portland:


America has once again been shaken over the injustice of racism and racial inequity that has
beleaguered our country since its foundation. While many of us would like to believe that we have
grown as a nation, the abhorrent actions of the last week have only renewed the notion that the
oneness of an America, bound by the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has not been
grasped by all. Once again, we have watched a bitter and divided country trapped in an
unreconciled journey of oppression and discrimination. These opposing ideals have again defined
us and exposed us to the rest of the world as a nation devoid of its principled creed that all men and
women are created equal.
As an educator and leader of this district for only a few more days, I am compelled to write to you
today and urge you, as parents and teachers of Portland’s children, to speak to our children about
the tragic death of George Floyd, of racial inequality, of racism and all its ugly offenses, of social
justice, and the history of non violent and violent protest in the United States. I wish that our
children were physically here in school so that we could all come together as a school community
and help them process the acts of violence and injustice that we are experiencing. Unfortunately,
that cannot happen. However, I am confident that many of us will attempt to help the children of
Portland understand what is happening while developing ideas about what each of us can do to
make a positive difference and that embrace the founding principles of our democracy. To support
you in this endeavor, I have included a list of resources you might consider using to inspire a
discussion with your children.
 Books:
 Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners: books for children and young adults
 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
 Podcasts:
 Parenting Forward podcast episode ‘Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang Brandt’
 Articles:
 PBS’s Teaching Your Child About Black History Month
 Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup from Pretty Good

These are all difficult and very big issues, but they are very important ideas that we cannot ignore.
It is essential that we help our children understand that this moment in our history is one from
which we, young and old, can grow. We must not fall into the comfortable deception of silence but
the uncomfortable truth that details the fabric of the African American in the United States of
America. Purposeful conversations with our children and students must be a bridge to something
better for our country; an ideal for all who live and breathe in this troubled world of ours.
I am a white, privileged man who has been given a lifetime of opportunity. I have taught classrooms
of children, led schools and school districts, raised and educated a family of six children, and in a
few short weeks will walk away with a teachers’ pension for the rest of my days on this earth. I
have so much for which to be grateful. Yes, I have worked hard and made plenty of sacrifices, but
by the very nature of my skin color, America has given me distinct opportunities not afforded other
men and women who walk this earth. My skin color has also never caused me to fear for my life.
Until such time as these opportunities and sense of peace and safety that I experience are open for
all children, black, brown and white, our country will not be healed from the centuries of
oppression and racism. As educators and parents of children with young and impressionable
minds, we must foster these ideals with our children. By doing so, we may help our country finally
shed the shackles of racial inequality by recognizing who we are and more importantly, what we
can become.
Many of you have heard me speak of the renowned poet laureate and author, Maya Angelou. It was
her books, and specifically her poetry, which, as a young student, uncovered a world beyond my
own. I am thankful that I have grown with the understanding that the ideals of a world unshackled
by the yolk of racism must be the world for our children and grandchildren and that the
advancement and survival of a united nation depends on us!

With hope for peace in our country,

Dr. O’Reilly