Photo: Denise Civiletti

In light of recent baseless comments accusations that have been unfounded and unsupported, I find it necessary to speak up and let the light of truth shine a spotlight on what some of us are collectively doing to advance the education of all our students.

As a resident, property tax payer and educator here in Riverhead, I find it reprehensible that during a pandemic, a time when all of us are navigating life under new rules just to remain safe and keep our communities safe, there are those who think it appropriate to attack others and sow division in our community. It is more important than ever to stay focused on what is most important: unity in our community.

Every day, the teachers of Riverhead continue to move forward, provide all the services and support our students need and do so in the most inclusive way and with awareness of those who may require more support in different ways.

We are acutely aware that not all families have the same level of support, access to opportunity and resources to not only survive but also to thrive.

When we all support each other, we are all lifted up. There’s an old saying, “A high tide floats all boats.” When we all decide to support each other rather than incite division, then and only then, is unity and progress possible.

This is a conscious decision and it requires action. I can tell you that at Roanoke Avenue School, where I have taught for 15 years, we have an intentional attitude and belief in inclusion for all our students and their families. We have survived the two failed budgets, we have had to be creative without the resources we need, but we never stop looking and asking for what we do need to make a difference for children. We are talking about the most vulnerable members of our community, they are completely reliant upon all of us to make the best choices- it directly affects them.

For the last several years, our literacy coach, Tammi Michaelson, has led a campaign in her community to get books donated so we could send books home with all of our students for the summer — books for every student. We’ve all added to the volume of books from our own homes and those of family and friends. This year we have expanded our requests for help in supplying these books – and we’ve received responses from many areas of Suffolk County from Shirley, to Islip, to Port Jefferson, and points east on the North Fork and the South Fork. The support of members of these communities, former parents, nurses and other teachers willing to collect, pick up, and deliver books is amazingly supportive during one of the most difficult years of any of our careers.

This year, faced with ongoing public insults to local officials, and serious language of division based on nationality, we must choose to support — not neglect — the education of the youth of our community. Vote YES, for children. Vote YES, for our schools and our community. It’s the first step in providing equity and access to education for all. One community — indivisible by hate.

Georgette Keller has been a teacher in Riverhead for nearly 20 years. She lives in South Jamesport.

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