Dear Springfield School Community,
Over the past two weeks, I have watched as our nation has wrestled with the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the death of Breonna Taylor, and video of a dogwalker’s threat to use a false complaint of racial violence to create power over Chris Cooper. Each of these incidents asks challenging questions about our national community. All are inescapable reminders that systematic racism intertwines with the fabric of our national culture.
As a human being, I am deeply saddened by the video I have seen. As the leader of Springfield’s school system, I know that these issues are not abstract concepts in cities far away from Vermont. These are issues that we struggle with regularly in our state and here in our schools in Springfield.
In the district, our mission is as follows:
To provide students with effective academic and social-emotional learning in schools with a positive culture that are supported by the community
One of the goals that we have established to pursue that mission is:
Goal 5: Increase the student sense of belonging to their school and classroom communities
If we are going to accomplish this goal and our mission as a whole, we need to be willing to speak as educators on the issues that affect our students. In this case, we need to acknowledge that systems that promote white supremacy inherently prevent members of our school community from feeling a full sense of safety and belonging in our schools.
That acknowledgment, combined with our stated purpose as a school district, demands a reorientation. If I genuinely want all of our students to feel belonging and, in turn, receive the education they deserve, I need to acknowledge the constraints and obstacles that our national and local school culture put on to our students of color.
Once I accept that those obstacles are present, I have a moral obligation to pursue strategies and policies that actively aim to clear them away. That clearance cannot be accomplished through models built merely around ideas like “tolerance” and “inclusion.” Instead, schools must strive to be actively anti-racist in their stance.
This all means that as a school system, I feel we need to ensure that all of our students understand the historical, social, and economic dimensions of race and racial tension in our society. I believe that I need to work every day to create a school community that does not avoid difficult conversations or runs from decisions that may make some uncomfortable.
I choose to stand with our students and families of color. I hope that as a school system and a community, we will do the same.
Dr. Zach McLaughlin
Superintendent of Schools