The Board of Education held a virtual work session on Monday - June 8, 2020. The meeting was livestreamed on the district's YouTube Channel.
Presentations included, a discussion on race relations and equity as Superintendent Sawyers opened the meeting with this important and timely discussion (please see full context of what he shared below). Additional presentations included a major clarification to set the record straight on the Wired Magazine article last week that detailed a pilot program to potentially be conducted in two halls of our middle school this summer. The final information presented was how we are preparing for what school may look like in the fall.
Superintendent Sawyers debrief of Peaceful Weekend March and the happennings in the world today - 5:06
Clarification of Wired Magazine article - Pilot Project - 27:00
Reset/Restart - Planning for fall and back to school - 45:02
Superintendent Sawyers Remarks regarding the Saturday Peace March & happennings in the world
Grief, social injustice, and emotions are heightened in our world, country, and community and rightly so. Voices are uniting to express sympathy and outrage for the families of George Floyd and all those that have lost their lives in senseless acts of violence. This past Saturday, over 1,000 people proudly joined Xzavier Brandon, a New Albany graduate, to participate in a peaceful demonstration to allow their voices and actions to be heard to effectuate change.
Public education is the cornerstone of equality, without which the pursuit of happiness becomes nearly impossible. Education provides the opportunity to build a better life for yourself. I am grateful for such every day.
Everyone has a right to an education that is in a safe and inclusive environment. Our school district does not and will not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind in any of our schools. No matter your race, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion, you are welcome in our halls, classrooms, and our campus. We have a responsibility to provide access to an outstanding education and a safe space for everyone in our community. We must continue to work daily to ensure that such exists for everyone on our school campus.
That said, we are not perfect. We are human. We make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes just like we ask our children to do. However, collectively, we have a responsibility as an entire community to stand together for our students and those who have suffered injustice during this time of grief and anger in our nation. We are committed to the work it will take to create a better world for our students and we must define that work together in the spirit of continuous improvement. It is everyone’s responsibility to listen, learn and grow. Without such actions, we are part of the problem. Our school district is committed to being part of the solution.
We actively encourage our students to “See Something Say Something” and “Own Their R” every day on our school campus. We teach our students the R Factor in hopes of empowering them with the disciplines necessary to produce positive outcomes by owning their responses. Further, we teach our students that we can not control the events (“E’s”) that will continue to occur, but by owning their response (“R”) in a positive manner, they can and will directly influence the outcome (“O”) produced.
The recent E’s in our nation that took the lives of the innocent were clearly beyond our control and unnecessary. Those involved should be held accountable. However, we now have an opportunity to demonstrate to our youth and those that have or continue to suffer social injustice that enough is enough. Now is our opportunity to be united and own our R’s that can and will produce positive outcomes for our students, our staff, and our community.
While this work should extend beyond our school district and into our community to address the social injustice issues at their core, we must also remember that we have a responsibility to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student. We have developed values, behaviors, and outcomes that we are responsible to live and hold each other accountable for daily in our schools. Our values include the need for us to Rise Up & Own It, that we are Stronger Together, and we must Get Better Every Day. Over 5,000 students, 650 staff members, and 10,000 + parents deserve no less.
I have reached out to leaders within our Setting Objectives Achieving Results - African American Parent Network (SOAR-APN) to begin to ask questions and seek information on a process by which we can and will impact meaningful change within our school district. We will invite others, parents, students, and staff to also share their wisdom on how to structure opportunities that will permit us to listen, to understand, and to engage in constructive dialogue to improve our schools and insure that the policies and guidelines enacted by the Board of Education to govern our school district are, in fact, working to protect the safety and welfare of all persons on our school campus everyday.
In addition to seeking solutions to continuously improve our schools, I am committed to engaging with our community officials and our community at large for the betterment of everyone.
Clearly, Americans must begin talking candidly together about race—starting now. Yet talking about racism is uncomfortable. We avoid such conversations in schools because it could stir things up that we are unprepared to handle. By approaching one another with good faith and caring, we can ease these fears.
I read this morning, “There remains a great deal of apprehension and uncertainty in our country as we move forward in life amidst a pandemic. However, just as life seemed to be moving in a more positive direction, we were hit again by a virus of another type, one that has plagued our nation for generations—racism. It most recently reared its ugly head through the death of George Floyd. The amount of anger, anguish, and unrest many Americans are feeling has reached epidemic levels—and rightfully so. Our young people are watching and learning. The question is, what are we teaching them?
Tonight is the beginning of this discussion. We are not perfect and we have work to do for our students, staff, and community.