Southington group that protested Columbus bust donates books on diversity to elementary school

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SOUTHINGTON — The same group that protested the dedication of the Christopher Columbus statue in front of the John Weichsel Municipal Center last year has donated 140 books to Derynoski School that encourage diversity.

Southington Women for Progress, a group that formed in response to President Trump’s 2016 election, objected to a Columbus bust that was funded by the town’s Italian-American organizations and protested its installation in front of town and Board of Education offices last fall.

Erica Roggeveen Byrne, a founder of the group, said the effort to donate books on diversity of race, ethnicity and abilities was prompted after the bust went up.

“It really reflects our mission to try and make Southington a more just and equitable place for all residents,” she said.

Members of the group contributed to an online wish list of books. Book topics include “celebrating cultural heritages, encouraging girls in STEM, using agency wisely, and being kind to others,” according to a statement from the group.

Tia Jones, a group member who graduated from Southington public schools, was among the women who delivered the books last month.

“While I received a wonderful education in Southington, as a woman of color, I would have benefited from seeing my culture reflected in the curriculum,” Jones said.

She and her mother, Patrice Jones, helped organize the donations.

Jan Verderame, principal of Derynoski, said Thursday that she was pleased to accept the donation.

“Derynoski school takes pride in their community partnerships,” she said.

Tim Connellan, school superintendent, said donations or gifts are evaluated by school officials for “suitability and appropriateness.” 

“A donation of age, grade and subject appropriate books from members of the community is always welcome and is certainly a positive event.,” he said. “Positive community support for the schools is one of the attributes that makes Southington such a special place to live and raise a family.”

Roggeveen Byrne said the group would like to continue gathering books on diversity and donate them to other schools in town. She and her group want to ensure that “kids in our elementary school have access to books that are reflective of both the classroom and the diversity that they’ll encounter when they get out into the wider world,” she said.

Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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