A Community Message from Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Pilch on Black Lives Matter
Dear District 6 Community,
I send this note with a heavy heart as I watch the pain in our country and community. Education has the power to be the great equalizer when we do our work well and right. I am sad and worried, and I am hopeful that with this tragedy comes tremendous opportunity for change.
This February, before COVID-19 forced the closure of our school buildings, a group of more than 100 District 6 staff members, community members, Board of Education members and students met at Riverside Community Center in Evans to help us create a new vision for the next 10 years of our strategic plan. Equity and access was a significant part of that discussion, especially for and from our students of color. They spoke from the heart about their experiences as Brown and Black youth who have great dreams and goals and deserve meaningful relationships and authentic support.
Their brilliant and honest words replay in my head. I see their faces and the faces of our District 6 students and families when I watch the news and witness the deep pain, sadness and anger in our communities and our world. The senseless murder of George Floyd and many other Black citizens must force us to look inside ourselves. The organizations we work for and support must have a plan for unity and take action for our students, families, and staff of color. Black Lives Matter. Schools, along with all the other institutions that serve our communities, must address the racial injustice and racial inequities that exist within our walls.
The Board of Education and I are committed to equity, access, and racial equality. This is evident in our Strategic Plan. We expect every staff member to engage in Implicit Bias Training. Here is some of the work the Board and I are committed to in District 6:
- Beyond Diversity, cultural proficiency training, for every member of the District 6 leadership team, including principals and assistant principals
- Implementing and training equity teams at every school and support services to review practices and advise on issues as they arise with an explicit focus on racism
- Review practices and data regarding learning gaps, discipline, program participation and more, and implement practices to address existing inequities with an explicit focus on racism
- Address our hiring and retention practices so our staff more closely represent the students and families we serve
- This fall, all schools will increase their efforts on anti-bullying training for students with an explicit focus on racism
In Innovation2030, the new strategic plan that is still being developed, the focus area of Climate and Culture reads, “District 6 cultivates a safe, healthy and inclusive learning environment for all, embracing our diversity and engaging all stakeholders.” Goal No. 1 under this focus area is to ensure cultural responsiveness throughout the organization.
We are committed to turning these words into meaningful impact. We know we must do more widespread and culturally responsive training for staff, and deliberately focus on educators teaching students of races other than their own. We know we must eliminate the institutional injustices and practices that create barriers for our Brown and Black students. I acknowledge we have only begun to scratch the surface. We will go deeper in this work to ensure that schools truly are an important part of the solution to the racial inequities that are active in our district, community and nation.
It is impossible not to feel great anger and sadness at senseless loss of life. It is overwhelming. And yet, I believe there is hope to be found - hope that demands flexibility and openness where real change can occur and institutional racism can be addressed with courage and empathy. Schools must and will be an essential part of this change. This is a time to listen, learn and act, and a time to show great love and kindness.
Thank you to our students, alumni, staff, parents and community partners who have spoken your truth and brought issues about racism to the forefront of our local and national discussion. We will need your input and participation as we move ahead to make our schools safe and racially equitable. We at District 6 are ready to be a significant part of the solution, and I encourage you to do the same.
With peace and hope,
Dr. Deirdre Pilch, Superintendent