To the Editor:

RPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Baldwin’s statements in the Feb. 1 issue of The Press, criticizing Mark Robinson’s MLK Day address were extremely disappointing. The statements made unsupported assertions and used deeply inflammatory language to profoundly mischaracterize Mr. Robinson’s remarks. I urge Dr. Baldwin to withdraw those statements.

The disputed portions of Mr. Robinson’s address were recorded in the Press article and contradict Dr. Baldwin’s claims that they were “false, inaccurate and troubling,” “ugly and wholly inaccurate,” or “damaging to Dr. Gross’s professional reputation.” Furthermore, approximately 50% of the Press article was comprised of direct testimonials from the two student reporters, corroborating Mr. Robinson’s remarks.

Mr. Robinson did NOT attack nor accuse RPS of racism. Rather, Mr. Robinson observed that society’s “agitators” perform the essential function of shaking institutions into awareness of shortcomings, but that institutions resist such constructive critiques. This observation was well supported by the student reporters’ testimonials and (inadvertently) by Dr. Baldwin’s disproportionate response.

The vast majority of Ridgefield residents overwhelmingly support Dr. Baldwin’s mission. We actively engage in our schools. We provide feedback as part of a constructive process to advance our town. Thus, it is deeply disturbing to see our highest paid municipal employee react so aggressively and defensively to mild observations about the advance of social progress.

I encourage Dr. Baldwin to consider what a more positive, constructive and appropriate response might have been, perhaps something along the lines of: “We recognize that interactions with the student reporters were not optimal, and we are making adjustments. RPS addresses racist behaviors in accordance with district policies. While privacy law precludes RPS from disclosing the specific nature of such actions, we are reaching out to Mr. Robinson and other local leaders and activists to solicit their guidance in improving our policies, programs and practices.”

Alex Harris

Ridgefield, Feb. 5