WESTMINSTER — The chairwoman of the Bellows Falls Union High School Board apologized Monday for walking out on a presentation on racism and bigotry in Vermont schools during a supervisory board meeting held in November.
Molly Banik, before the start of the regular BFUHS meeting Monday night, said she wanted to apologize for her behavior.
Banik, who is from Westminster and is one of the BFUHS representatives on the supervisory union board, said she had spoken with other board members about her actions on Nov. 10, when she disputed comments made by Curtiss Reed Jr. of Brattleboro, the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, who said he wanted the Vermont business community to take a bigger leadership role in pushing for more diversity.
“I would like to formally apologize for my reaction and leaving the supervisory board meeting last week. After speaking to other board members and the principal, perhaps Mr. (John) Broadley and I could meet with Mr. Reed in the future and discuss what’s taught in the high school and to listen to comments. Thank you,” she said.
There was no reaction to her brief statement from any of the board members or administration. Reed could not be reached for comment by press time.
Reed, at a meeting of the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union on Nov. 10, had criticized in general what history was being taught in Vermont high schools and said schools were teaching “whitewashed” history. He also condemned the racist actions at other high schools’ sporting events, notably in South Burlington and Winooski, saying some people were “knuckleheads.”
Reed’s presentation, which he has made to other school boards and organizations across the state, was entitled “Bigotry is Bad for Business.”
Later in Monday’s meeting, under directors’ comments, Director David Clark, also of Westminster, had said he was seeking a censure of Banik for her actions on walking out on Reed during his presentation, and then returning once he had left. He said that action of coming back after Reed left was inherently racist.
He said school directors have a duty, even with the paltry $500 annual stipend, to listen to the public, despite their criticisms.
He also questioned Banik’s leadership as chairwoman, since she refused to talk to the press. Clark is a former chairman of the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, as well as BFUHS.
“I think it’s time for all the schools to have that difficult conversation (WNESU Chairwoman) Jessa Westclark mentioned. And I believe the SU board would be the appropriate place to have it,” Clark said Tuesday.
While no action was taken on Clark’s recommendation for a censure, he said he was satisfied with Banik’s apology and her move to meet with Reed to discuss curriculum at the high school.
Two other board members, Priscilla Lambert and Brenda Farkas, both of Rockingham, said they had also taken offense at what Reed said, with Lambert claiming he had directly criticized the school and its student athletes. Lambert noted the high school football team, which recently won a state championship, had won a sportsmanship award.