Letters to the Editor

The Dorchester Banner welcomes readers’ views on topics of public interest.

Equity in Dorchester’s public schools
In the early fall we feared the spread of COVID-19, a deadly disease for which there is no vaccine. It began as an enemy to humans then became more invasive to United States citizens beginning in January 2020.
To survive and protect the health and safety of our community and those around us, we unified our efforts, we worked together to heed the advice of our public health officials and we took every precaution to prevent further infection. Over the last three months we have endured a virtual education world that none of us have ever been a part of.

Yet, while dealing with a new form of health crisis, we witnessed the death of several human beings: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and too many prior to 2020. Their lives were taken by another disease, one that we as a society must also unify against and overcome — RACISM!
These horrific acts deeply concern me and every educator I know. We rose and stood together to protect our students and community when the disease of COVID-19 came upon us, and now we must recreate those efforts to establish a more equitable society for our children by eliminating institutional and structural racism.

We can no longer talk about racism; we MUST take action to eliminate it! The time has come for the Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools (DCPS) and ALL its employees to act courageously with our beliefs, not place them in an “action plan” that has no action.
DCPS will review ALL policies and procedures using the Equity and Excellence in Maryland, Guide to Equity in Education to evaluate all teaching, student services, operational policies and practices. We will not just provide several professional development practices addressing equity; we will LIVE them within our schools.

We will listen, learn, ask, and take action to confront and eliminate racism. It is my and our DCPS moral and professional responsibility to make this happen. Our DCPS Education for Equity Task Force will oversee this process throughout the summer and the next school year, seeking support from all county stakeholders. We cannot opt out!
I remain completely and uncompromisingly resolute in the commitment to educational equity. We will not tolerate hate, racism, or discrimination within Dorchester County Public Schools.

In solidarity with our MD State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon, I believe public education plays a vital role in eliminating implicit bias and systemic racism as well as bringing about change within our classrooms toward educational equity.
This is the foundation to the success of our society and country. The time is now.
W. David Bromwell
Dorchester Co. Public Schools

Forget China, I want an apology from President Trump
In a recent letter to the editor, one reader said he wanted an apology from China about the failure to notify us quickly enough about the COVID 19 outbreak in Wuhan. I am more interested in getting an apology from President Trump.
A pandemic was expected to come from China; therefore, the CDC had their own American scientists working in Wuhan. Trump dismantled that office and brought them home.
Based on their experience with H1N1 flu and the Ebola crisis, President Obama’s National Security Council wrote a 69-page playbook (you can read it online) detailing what to do in the event of a looming pandemic. They gave it to the Trump administration during the transition; however, nobody at the White House followed it.

A few days before Trump’s inauguration, Obama administration officials prepared a “tabletop exercise” to brief Trump’s aides on how to deal with a pandemic they were sure would eventually come to our shores. These aides were told what supplies would be needed and in what numbers.
In addition, they were told that they might have to invoke the Defense Production Act. None of this advice was followed.

The Obama-Biden administration also created a pandemic office at the White House, the “National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” purposed to prepare for coming pandemics. The Trump administration shut it down in March 2017. (See the March 13 article in the Washington Post by Beth Cameron “I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it.”)
President Trump likes to tell us that President Obama “left the cupboard bare” (referring to the Strategic National Stockpile for medical supplies). This is not true.

Much of the equipment had expired. Why?
The Trump administration let the contract for the company maintaining that equipment expire at the end of last summer. It was not renewed until January 2020, after it was clear that we were facing a pandemic.
Many other Trump administration mistakes have surfaced in the news as well. For instance, N95 masks were not ordered in bulk until mid-March although the intelligence community warned President Trump of the pandemic repeatedly in January and perhaps even sooner. It has been widely reported that references to the expected pandemic were even in his January presidential intelligence briefs.
President Trump likes to say “Who could have known this virus would go out of control like this? Who knew?”
Everybody knew!

President Obama knew, Vice-President Biden knew, the intelligence community knew, our medical community knew, our scientists knew, even Trump’s own aides knew. They did not keep silent. They told President Trump over and over and over again.
Do we need an apology from China? ABC News reported on April 8 that our intelligence community warned about the coronavirus in November 2019.
If anyone is going to apologize about over 120,000 people dying needlessly and the anticipated 2 million people who will be infected by October if not sooner, I want President Trump to stand up first.

Susan Olsen

Race: What can we do as a college?

The current extraordinary situation in which the world finds itself in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police officers in Minneapolis has generated a social movement demanding law enforcement reform across the United States, and a broader call to address the larger social problems of race and equity in America.

The crisis as it manifests itself locally on the Eastern Shore, and throughout the state of Maryland, underscores our continuing mission as a comprehensive community college. We are the college of first choice for our service region and must assure equity of access as well as equity for completion for all students who attend Chesapeake College — regardless of color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

With the challenges presented by the pandemic in forcing the adoption of distance learning we must do everything in our power to mitigate the inequities in access to computer technology and internet access that affect much of our service region across all the communities we serve. We must provide for all people who come to Chesapeake the opportunity to reach their potential, accomplish their goals and become contributing members of our society.

Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. voiced on many occasions that education is the key to lifting the individual from poverty to prosperity, and from ignorance to knowledge and understanding. We must do our best to facilitate individual success through short-term training, professional and skilled trades, and college and university-bound transfer education. We also must play the role of shining a light on the cultural, social, economic, and political realities of our day to provide that broadening engagement for all people who come to Chesapeake College to learn.

For our part, the College will engage in introspection regarding our role in providing equity and effecting meaningful change in our region in the coming weeks and months. We will recalibrate the aspects of our strategic plan that deal with diversity and equity in instruction and services, and will work with our community advisory committee on concrete steps we can take as a College to address inequities in our local African-American communities and wherever else these issues exist.

These topics will be addressed within departments as well as at the executive level in an upcoming leadership retreat. Input and action items will be shared with our Board of Trustees. I have been committed to diversity since my arrival in 2018. We must do more.

We are living in difficult times that challenge us every day. It pains me to say that there are no easy answers as we look to the future.
But I do take comfort in my faith in America, in my hope for the future, and the sure knowledge I have of the gifted and dedicated staff and faculty with whom I work every day at Chesapeake College. We can solve many of these problems at our level, in our neighborhoods and our communities.

I encourage all of you to get involved in making those differences every day—at home, in the civic organizations in which you serve, and both within and beyond your social circles. With the unwavering support of our Board of Trustees and amongst all of our faculty, staff, and students, we will make a difference.

Dr. Cliff Coppersmith

President of Chesapeake College.