Letter: Response to Interview with Dr. Harrison

To the Editor:

Less than a year ago the three Boards of Education voted unanimously to hire Superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison. In addition to administering the schools, he was expected to implement “equity” initiatives, some started by the former Superintendent, and others developed later and championed by members of the ER9 Joint Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a subcommittee of the Boards of Education.

The DEI Task Force was formed, in part due to pressure from by the ER9 Social Justice Group, an organization of Joel Barlow High School students and recent graduates who authored a 52-page manifesto calling for reform of Joel Barlow in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident. Their critique started from the premise that the school was systematically racist, which is a Critical Race Theory and Social Justice Theory a priori assumption regarding all hierarchies.

We, the undersigned, have questioned the Social Justice emphasis of our School Boards and particularly the Joint Task Force on Diversity Equity and Inclusion’s DEI surveys.

As Dr. Harrison said in his letter declining Easton and Redding’s employment offer “Rather than continuing forward as the superintendent, I have decided to pursue opportunities outside of a traditional K-12 setting that will allow me to fully engage my passion for education and commitment to improving outcomes for all students without the heavy burdens of district administration.”

He has accepted a consulting position with the Connecticut Center for School Change, an organization that studies schools across the state for “equity” and promotes school reform. Easton and Redding School Boards entered a contract with this group to do an “equity audit” of our schools which is still ongoing.

As the Boards of Education were aware, Dr. Harrison, in his 2015 Ph.D. thesis (available online, see page 69) described himself this way:

“My leadership approach begins in critical theory and ends in social activism.”
“I am a critical theorist”
“I have adopted a social justice ideology.”

On page 14 of the thesis Dr. Harrison describes CRT:
“This study is framed within Critical Race Theory (CRT) and tenets of intersectionality. Rooted in legal studies, CRT recognizes the level to which racism and oppression is woven into the fabric of American culture and therefore provides a backdrop for the identity formation of adolescents. ”

“The primary purpose of the social construction of race is to create hierarchies in which white individuals are privileged above people of color. McCoy (2013) notes that within this socially constructed hierarchy, white skin places individuals at the top of the hierarchy and black skin demotes individuals at the bottom.”

Moving over to The Connecticut Center for School Change seems like a good step for Dr. Harrison. It will allow him to affect social change in more schools across the state.

We the undersigned, and many others who support our views in the community, encourage our elected representatives to hire officials who distinguish themselves from the extremes and ask our School Boards to increase the focus on traditional academic excellence in Easton and Redding Schools.

Steve Humanick Easton
David Bryant Easton
Megan Micola Redding
Lew Andrews Redding
Ed Micola Redding
Zach Andrews Redding
John Thornton Redding
Luciana Corsello Easton
Louis Berkowitz Redding
Bill Jordan Redding
Eric Gebhardt Redding
Maxwell Malcy Redding
Suzanne Bohn Redding
Rob Santangeli Easton
Ralph Kuhn Easton
Kathy Kuhn Easton
Roger Lancaster Redding
CLJ Lancasster Redding
Robert Nelson Redding
Mary Kubick Redding
Fred Kubick Redding
Laura Nelson Redding
Roisin Sullivan Redding
Anne Manusky Easton
Dana Benson Easton
Pam Caraluzzi Redding
Bart Senior Easton
John Belfatto Redding
June Logie Easton
Shari Williams Easton
Maureen Hanley Easton
David Bohn Redding
William Evarts Redding
Richelle Luedee Redding
Kevin Oliver Easton
Bill Miller Redding
Angela LaPick Easton
Joseph Samon Easton