I am writing in response to the recently published letter written by the Chair of the South Kingstown School Committee: “Canter: SK parent was ‘entitled, threatening.’”

I have never written a letter to the editor before but the letter written by Ms. Canter is misleading, lacks context and is an egregious breach of trust.

1. The quote from a concerned SK parent that Canter posted to her social media page and then sent to this newspaper is an excerpt from a letter written to the School Committee. Are parents and concerned community members now to expect that emails to the School Committee may be later shared in the local paper in order to ridicule and condemn them? How can a parent or citizen feel safe or comfortable writing to the School Committee after this breach of trust? Ms. Canter must work to immediately repair the harm she has caused. I hope that each School Committee member will address this and assure the public that this will never happen again.

To some, the quote Chair Canter decided to publish might sound entitled when taken out of context. I understand Melissa Boyd’s perspective because this was written after months of volunteering, community engagement, letter upon letter to the school committee and the Superintendent (many never responded to) with little to no headway. Ms. Canter apparently views a group of parents advocating for the continuation of a program that many moved to this district for as “entitled” and “threatening.”

2. Ms. Canter’s letter fans the flames of division by correlating the NYT podcast “Nice White Parents” and the SK DLI program. If all Ms. Canter got out of “Nice White Parents” is that the SKI DLI program is a problem then she needs to listen to it again. I would urge everyone to listen to it, and then reflect on their own experiences and actions. The use of this podcast by the School Committee chair to shame a parent for reaching out and advocating for her children is deeply concerning.

3. I recently shared that, “it seems like the hurt feelings and defensiveness in this town go so far back it’s like a sickness that we never recover from.”

Ms. Canter responded “The way you describe it totally clicks with me – a sickness we never recover from.” Ms. Canter is in a unique position of power as School Committee chair to work toward resolution and understand or against it. Canter’s LTE and corresponding social media post both actively contribute to the division.

4. Transparency, Accountability, and Trust are not “dog whistles” as Ms. Canter suggests in her letter. They are incredibly important. Especially right now, in a divided nation during a global pandemic. I implore Ms. Canter to consider how she might bring more of each of these qualities to the table and ask what she might accomplish or improve while she still holds her position. How could she work to bring people together or help heal the divide?

5. In response to the question of Melissa Boyd’s use of her maiden name: candidates are required to run using the name which they are registered to vote. Suggesting this makes her untrustworthy is absurd.

Chair Canter said, “An accountable candidate would understand that this value is not just about holding others accountable— it’s about holding yourself accountable as well.” I hope that Chair Canter will take her words to heart and hold herself accountable for the damage she has caused by publishing a constituent’s letter, shaking the already fragile relationship between the School Community and the town which it serves. I call on every current School Committee member, candidate and community member to take steps toward healing the divides in our community. It will not be easy but we must be willing to listen to one another with compassion if we are ever to move froward. Instead of pointing fingers and tearing one another down, we must continuously ask ourselves, “How can we come together and move forward?”

In summary, please speak to the candidates for school committee, visit their campaign pages and learn about them, but do not rely on the words of a School Committee chair whose concept of trust includes sending a letter written by a constituent to the local paper in an effort to smear them.

Beth Violette

South Kingstown

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