Thank you to all of the community members, students, and district staff that came out on Monday night. It is clear that our community is heartbroken, but hopefully, through our grief, we can work together to rebuild a solid foundation based on respect and inclusion, regardless of backgrounds.
Since Monday night’s board meeting, the administrative team has been working ceaselessly on how best to move forward as a district. We have reflected on the recent articles published, the comments and reactions in response to the articles, emails received by our administrative team, and the sentiments shared at the board meeting. And most importantly, we have spent time thinking through the best ways to support students as they process what is happening and how to help them move forward. We revisited the draft framework that was presented at Monday’s meeting and discussed possible diversity, equity, and inclusion resources that would best help our community moving forward. As it is clear that the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion go beyond the school district, meetings with all three Town Managers are being scheduled to discuss partnerships for solutions.
We have been consulting with both local and national agencies who specialize in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work as well as superintendents throughout the country whose districts have worked through similar issues. Xavier Botana, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools spent time speaking with us regarding the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices that have adopted and he found works best.
As in everything we do as a school district, our commitment to our students and faculty remain our top priority. During late start, Wednesday, teachers at both the middle and high schools met with respective building administrators to share reactions, concerns, and ideas; review our draft framework for moving forward; and think together about the next steps. Feedback was encouraged in person and/or through a survey reflecting on: 1) what the school is already doing in a positive way, 2) issues that the school needs to address moving forward, and 3) organizations, consultants, and facilitators who might be a part of our work.
Similar but less structured conversations are happening in the elementary schools this week. All of our teachers, now more than ever, are being encouraged to listen to students and one another as they process what is happening throughout the community. In the coming weeks' age appropriate, facilitated student and staff trainings and discussions will take place at all of the district schools. For the immediate future, our priority will be on MSK and KHS.
This week, the Wellness Committee and the SAVE Promise Club (Students Against Violence Everywhere) at KHS are highlighting "Say Something Call to Action Week". This is a national campaign to remind students that they can help prevent violence in schools by highlighting the focus of Say Something: Look for Signs, Act Immediately, and Say Something. Also at KHS, the Civil Rights Team and Film Club are sponsoring a movie and discussion on Thursday, from 2:30-4:00, I am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin. Like the Say Something week, this was previously scheduled but provides us another opportunity to come together to heal, and learn.
Additionally, on Thursday morning, KHS students will participate in an assembly to explain the district’s plan to work on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. They too will be able to provide feedback to administration through a survey reflecting on 1) what the school is already doing in a positive way, 2) issues that the school needs to address moving forward, and 3) the format the school might use to have meaningful discussions going forward.
On Friday, March 1st, the MSK Civil RIghts Team will conduct the Step Forward, an activity that they have been planning for several months. As a follow-up to the exercise, the MSK Civil Rights Team has ordered a new book entitled, The Culture of Love, by Dr. Luvelle Brown, which was discussed at the most recent school board meeting. This whole school exercise is designed to enhance awareness and empathy for others and will be followed up immediately with small group conversations to debrief.
Again, thank you to everyone who has shared ideas and concerns with us this week. It may take some time for our community to heal, but it is my hope that we will come out stronger on the other end.