Dear Shawnee Mission Community,
We are facing a challenge that tests our character. Across the country and our community, there is deep pain over the killing of George Floyd. We are seeing an outcry of grief and anger as our neighbors and families gather to speak out against injustice. Sadly, this and other recent events serve as stark reminders that we still have much work to do to address systemic racism, inequities, and disparities that exist in our country.
Why do these unjustified acts of atrocity continue to happen? That question and many others weigh heavily on our hearts. Similar incidents have happened repeatedly across the country, and many of our students and families are experiencing these events as repeated and on-going trauma.
This past week, memories of Ferguson flooded my mind. The district in which I previously worked and lived was just down the road from Ferguson. One lesson learned from this experience is that how we respond matters. Combating institutional racism requires courage and voice. This is a time to listen, learn, and grow as a community. It happens one relationship at a time, and takes a collective willingness to engage in the conversation. Our children deserve a world in which systemic oppression gets transformed into a world of unlimited possibilities.
Our community identified some of these issues in the strategic plan approved by SMSD Board of Education last June, and provided specific direction for actions that needed to be taken. Putting the plan into action, we are training every staff member in cultural proficiency, actively seeking to create a more diverse workforce, and publicly reporting disaggregated discipline and academic performance data to hold ourselves accountable. But this is not sufficient, and our collective work cannot stop here.
Part of systemic racism is the promotion of the narrative that “some kids can’t.” That attitude and bias has no place in our schools or our community. Every child is capable of greatness. It is our responsibility as educators and as a community to act in ways that ensure every child is prepared for life success.
At SMSD we are committed to making our world a better place for every student. I encourage all of us to lean into the conversation around race, while avoiding blame and shame, and to be a positive force for change. I appreciate the partnership we have with our families and community in Shawnee Mission. The work in front of us is hard, but together, we can make a difference.
On behalf of the Board of Education, thank you for being a great community that cares about each and every child.