News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Letters to the Editor - 6/24/2020

To the Editor:

I want to thank everyone who helped with the Class of 2020 Street Banner and Keepsake Project.

When Citizens4Community brought up the idea with parents and the school, we knew it was important for Sisters to come together to honor our graduating seniors during a tough time because of COVID-19. We were limited as a community in how much we could support our Sisters High School (SHS) seniors at graduation, but we could show our love through these banners.

We had no way of knowing C4C would get so much support for the project. This just shows how, as a community, we really are all in this together.

I’m a Class of 2021 student, and I had lost a lot of hope for these last couple years of my high school experience. Not knowing if or when I would go back to school has been a scary thought.

But after seeing how our community has supported the Class of 2020, I know that, no matter what, it will be a great year. I have gained even more of a love for my community while watching this banner project happen. We are all facing such tough times right now, and seeing this kind of support from my community truly warms my heart.

Olivia Bertagna

C4C Youth Board Member

To the Editor:

As two Sisters High School graduates and community members of color who have returned home before our final year in college, we are saddened by the racism undergirding our nation’s historical and contemporary actions towards people of color.

The murder of George Floyd by police officers marks only the most recent wrongful death within a system of entrenched practices of police brutality, racialization, and discrimination. While we appreciate the energy of recent protests, we urge Sisters residents to take further action against racist systems and reflect on the existing issues of race within our own community.

After we both went to college, we became aware of the lack of action taken in the Sisters community to protect, respect, and affirm black and brown lives. In college, we experienced solidarity and empathy for our hopes and dreams.

Retrospectively, we realized that more attention was paid to the degradation of our natural surroundings, rather than the systemic struggles of people of color across the country.

Unfortunately, we each experienced incidents of direct or indirect racism while attending the Sisters schools.

We were often the only people of color in a classroom, which alienated us.

None of our teachers were people of color, and while they did their best to enlighten and educate on matters of historical racism and the American experience, there was rarely any discussion articulating lives and stories of people of color.

If we were to call out racist systems or racism, in or outside the classroom, we were labeled too political or too angry.

We highlight these experiences not to disparage the hard work of our teachers, but to plead for systematic change to education and community solidarity. Racism is real and alive in Sisters. What has been “good enough” in the past cannot suffice any longer. The Sisters community must acknowledge its lack of diversity and commit to both individual and structural changes that dismantle white supremacy. These anti-racist actions should not be taken solely to achieve diversity, but also to benefit the well-being of community members, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class or gender.

You may think that events like the murders of George Floyd or Trayvon Martin could not happen in Sisters or even Central Oregon. But why would you want to wait and see before making a change? The momentum of the current protests and rallies must be carried forth into the future, grounded in finding equity, justice, and compassion for all, but particularly our community members of color.

Keegan Greaney & Zidane Galant-LaPorte

Letter to the Editor,

The end of the year is typically a time to celebrate, and there are reasons to celebrate; however, that is not why I write to you today. It is impossible to view the civil unrest that is happening throughout our nation and not reflect on our responsibility to do better.

For some of our students and families, seeing violent footage and unchecked racism is a source of ongoing trauma. This is made worse as it comes after months of anxiety and stress brought on by a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected our underserved families.

Sisters School District is committed to supporting students and families as we navigate the persistent aggression against our friends, family and neighbors in underserved populations.

Diversity and our differences make us stronger. Our schools are committed to opening doors to those who have been historically underserved. While our values are clear, we know we have work to do. It pains me to know that we have not supported all of our students — that we have students that feel as though they are not accepted in our schools. Whether they have different color skin, speak a different language, or identify with a different gender, these are all our children. We are committed to doing better.

It is through this lens that the Sisters School District will continue to focus on our Strategic Plan core values:

1. Investing in relationships that support every student’s growth and sense of belonging

2. Create extraordinary learning experiences that make learning real

3. Empower and support students and staff to become the best versions of themselves

4. Prepare students to be courageous individuals, effective communicators, critical thinkers and problem solvers for life.

Please take the time to take care of yourselves and those that you love. I am thankful that as parents/guardians, teachers, support staff and community we are committed to our learning partnership and supporting all of our students.

Curt Scholl


Sisters School District

To the Editor:

I am a full-time resident of Sisters. In addition, I am over 65, have asthma, and am raising my granddaughters — the youngest 8 years old. I stay at home as much as possible but I have to go out for groceries and essentials. I wear a mask. My kids wear masks. Local people who I run into while out wear masks. The clerks and cashiers at the local businesses wear masks.

As summer rolls into full swing our little community is being visited by people from all over the country. I have seen California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Washington license plates to name a few. Unfortunately, many of these vacationers don’t feel they need to show us respect by wearing a mask.

I am writing this letter to urge our local government to require masks be worn inside our local establishments. This practice has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 significantly!

Many shop owners and workers have expressed frustration and fear concerning this matter. One worker told me from behind a mask “I take their money but am pretty angry at their disregard for my health.” This is not right and since we cannot count on visitors to protect our town we must mandate it.

Mayor Ryan and city council members, make this happen. We as a community have worked hard these last three months, to stay apart to protect our neighbors. We have not had this virus cripple our town. Take action to protect your citizens and require facemasks in our community.

Debra Lajko

To the Editor:

As a nation, we are all hurting from the death of Mr. George Floyd, similar tragic incidents, and other inexcusable acts of bias. As I have been processing this tragedy and considering my own implicit biases and privileges, I discovered not a need for another generalized organization blanket statement acknowledging the vast amount of work to be done, but rather the need for a firm commitment to fully listening to and internalizing the conversations taking place; as well as an assurance of my own personal stake in those conversations.

I am the mother of 10 children. All 10 of my children are of color. The discussion of justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging is very personal to me. Daily I am reminded that while my children and I live in the same house, we live in vastly different worlds. It reminds me that I must speak up when I hear or see something that I know is not right. Remaining silent or looking the other way is only perpetuating the status quo. And it reminds me that a return to “normal” should not be desirable. Normal is not good enough. We must strive for institutional change; taking a systematic approach to creating permanent systemic change.

At Circle of Friends, we love, respect, and value all our children, mentors, and staff. We believe that diversity is a strength, and all individuals have worth. We cannot be silent and leave our children feeling doubt about our love for each of them. Nor can we fail to champion for all members of our community. And as members of our community our children need to see us take leading roles against racism, anti-blackness, anti-religious groups, anti-immigrants, bullying, disparity, evil and hate. As stakeholders you can count on one actionable item from us — we will not remain silent.

No parent should have to fear for their child’s physical or mental safety because of the color of their skin. Nor should any parent fear for their child for any number of reasons that make us different, whether it be national origin, sexual orientation, economic status, religion, physical or mental disability.

As the mother of 10 children, I want them growing up in a community where they are loved, celebrated, and valued. As the Executive Director of Circle of Friends, I want the same for all the children and families we serve, as well as for all those in our community. As a community we must intensify our efforts to make sure that our parents, spouses, children and neighbors live in a country that does not tolerate racism, bigotry, or violence.

We must assure we are not only creating an inclusive community, but one in which all members know they belong.

I ask you all to join us at Circle of Friends to help unite as a community to provide every child with an environment where they feel loved, encouraged and included.

Together we can make a difference.

Nicole Swisher Woodson

Executive Director

Circle of Friends


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