“in times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”
― Abraham Lincoln
The 2019-2020 school year may go down in history as the most memorable in this century.
As I reflect on my year as the MASA president, I think about the incredible changes and challenges we as school leaders have faced. Local education leaders have been forced to work without guidance through unprecedented challenges to best meet the needs of our students in unreasonably short time frames. We have succeeded, and we have failed. I reflect on what has been delivered through distance learning and can say with confidence that staff in my district have delivered technology and schoolwork to our students and kept students engaged to the best of their ability. For these things, I am amazed by the effort of the talented, hardworking employees within our system and across the state. On the other hand, our solution has further exposed the existing inequities our students face within our public schools. We can do better. We will do better.
As the school year ended, as we all faced the disappointment of our students and families who were grieving the loss of their last season, their senior prom, their favorite class, their walk across the graduation stage, we fielded the painful calls for a return to normalcy. We worked together to find a better solution for our families, seeking guidance from everyone and anyone to ease the pain in our community.
On May 25, 2020, Memorial Day, the world changed again, after already dealing with the rapid spread of COVID-19, when a white law enforcement officer was recorded, seemingly without emotion, taking the life of George Floyd, a black man. This reignited the outrage and call for justice for George Floyd and the many other black lives that have been lost at the hands of law enforcement. This prompted protest as people loudly shouted “I can’t breathe” and while reaffirming that black lives do matter. The systemic racism within our society and within our governmental structures and schools, made all other challenges related to COVID-19 seem insignificant.
In a moment, I realized that our schools would be able to get through the pandemic. Then I experienced an immediate concern about our ability, our collective will and commitment to finally address the public school system that has unfortunately left many students behind. The ripple effect that creates waves leading to incarceration, underemployment, and inadequate housing may finally be addressed. I have always believed public education provides hope for the hopeless, and yet I acknowledge today that this is more true for members of our predominantly white affluent community than for our communities of color.
I believe that our actions speak much louder than our words. Let’s lead by example, as we move forward to a new school year and provide a renewed hope for ALL, with particular emphasis on our families of color, who have been disenfranchised and left without the hope that public education can be and must be for everyone.
I feel fortunate to have been able to be the MASA president and work with leaders around the state through these challenges. We have collectively led the path forward through COVID-19 and are taking on the challenges of systemic racism. This experience has shown me the talent that leads public education and I am confident that the future will be better.
Thank you for the opportunity to lead.