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First Selectman Messages

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6/22/2021 - 06/22/2021

Dear Residents,

This week, the Canton Board of Education will consider a statement on equity for Canton Schools. The statement, developed by the Guiding Coalition on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, accomplishes several goals by:
Defining what equity means for the Canton Public School community;
Establishing a lens through which the schools examine policies, procedures, curriculum, staffing, student activities and discipline; and 
Providing a starting point for town-wide discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion. 

This is important work, and given the charged atmosphere we live in, this work will challenge us to find common ground. Let me offer a few observations:

It’s easy for people who enjoy the freedom of walking, driving and shopping without suspicion to assume that everyone has the same experience. Sadly, that’s not true.

It’s also easy to assume that this difference in experience is insignificant. For people living under a cloud of suspicion, this cloud makes everything more difficult, from buying a house to getting a promotion to simply making friends. 

Finally, it’s easy to believe that this difference has no material effect. If we think of the top earners, policy makers, heads of corporations, and more across America - we know this is not true. Even in Canton, membership on our boards and commissions reflect the difference.

The result is that we do not see a complete picture - and our policies, even our performance suffer. In study after study, companies that have diverse executive teams earn more than companies that are homogenous. The same holds true in government.

So we have work to do. It will be easy to say we’re in favor of diversity, equity and inclusion, but more meaningful to interrupt bias when it occurs. 

As we embark on this work, let’s acknowledge that no one is perfect or has “the answer.” Together, and only together, we can find ways to make Canton a model for other communities. That’s a reputation worth building. 

Back in April, two brave ladies (Beth and Sarah) invited me to raise a flag that encourages us all to donate life. I call these ladies “brave” because they are both heart transplant recipients; they would not be here without someone donating life.

Deciding to be an organ donor is a big decision. But it’s more than that. It’s an act of  kindness and generosity - not only by the donor, but by the donor’s family. 

Thanks to one young man’s generosity, Beth received a new heart and a new life more than 12 years ago. Since then, she has committed her time and energy to raising awareness of the dire need for more people to register as donors. 

Last year, more than 28,000 people nationwide received donated organs. Sadly, thousands more people die on the waiting list. As I write this article, more than 900 people in Connecticut are waiting for an organ, but only 45% of eligible people are registered as donors in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.

Think about it. Your forethought in promising your organs could make the difference between life and death for someone else. Consider donating life. 

Stay well,
Bob Bessel




Kevin Witkos
First Selectman
Phone: (860) 693-7847

Office Hours:
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Canton Town Hall
P.O. Box 168
4 Market Street
Collinsville, CT 06022