Message From the Superintendent
August 16, 2019
Dear PPS staff and families,
Like all of you, I watched with sadness and disbelief the news reports of the recent shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy, California. I know that our hearts go out to those who are grieving the loss of family members and friends. I know as well that the violence and hate of these recent shootings and of so much of what we have seen and heard this summer related to immigration and the treatment of families at our border is a source of confusion and upset for many in our community. The question is: How do we respond - as parents, as educators, as a school system?
This article from NEA may provide some guidance on how to have a conversation with your children if they are asking questions about traumatic events, such as mass shootings or have been seeing coverage of these tragedies.
In addition, I want to offer a message of safety and of hope.
As you know, through our referendum, we are in the process of enhancing the physical safety of our schools with a new guest management system, new procedures, and new security vestibules. Nevertheless, physical safety is not enough. We must also ensure the emotional safety of our students. Our children are living in a time in which there are open acts of violence based on a belief in white supremacy. They are hearing about the mistreatment of immigrant families at our border, about the mass deportation of undocumented individuals, about shootings at churches and synagogues. These acts, regardless of the group being targeted, can be upsetting for all children. Bigotry is not an American value. It is not a value of our community or of our schools. As a District we are committed to the values of inclusion and equity. And so, as a school system, we stand with our Latino students. We stand with our Black students. We stand with our Asian students. We stand with our Muslim students. We stand with our Jewish students. We stand with our gay and lesbian and transgender students. We stand with our students with disabilities. We stand with all of our students regardless of their race, religion, gender, or economic background – and regardless of their political views or those of their families. At a time when incidents of racism and anti-Semitism are especially on the rise, we want all of our students to feel safe and protected, and we will do all we can to ensure that is the case. If your child ever has an experience in school where they don't feel safe and protected, please contact your building principal or myself. Schools can and must be places of safety.
Schools must also be places of hope. We have in our classrooms the next generation of participants in our democracy. We have in our classrooms advocates for social justice and agents for change. We need them to see that while America might be messy, it can work. We can model that in the way student voices contribute to the management of our classrooms and our schools. We can model that on a local level through the community partnerships that are united to support the families in this town. Most of all, we can model it by designing learning experiences that will help our students develop the knowledge, compassion, and commitment to make our country a place that is free from bias and fear and one in which opportunities are attainable to all.
So what can we do for the start of school and in the months that follow? The list below is a starting point for all of us in the Princeton Public Schools. It is a list derived from the actions and values of so many of our staff members who truly recognize their responsibility as difference makers in the lives of students.
•Welcome our students. Get to know each one, their families and their cultures. Help them feel connected to one another and to caring adults within our schools.
•Protect our students. Continue to create classrooms and schools that are safe havens to ask questions and express differing viewpoints. Be especially watchful for any signs of inappropriate comments or actions based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or political preference. Work with our counselors to provide support for those students who may be feeling especially vulnerable. Speak to students proactively about our values of acceptance and our expectations for the emotional and physical safety of everyone in our community.
•Teach our students. Continue to teach about government, the balance of power, and the importance of informed and thoughtful leadership. Continue to provide students with opportunities through literature and the arts to learn about and express their understanding of different cultures and perspectives. Continue to develop our students’ skills in listening, speaking, and resolving conflicts. Continue our explicit focus as a school district on our own cultural responsiveness as educators and on the racial literacy of our students. Most of all, continue to be a safe and caring stronghold where students know there are adults who will do all they can to support them.
I am proud to be the superintendent in a community that is united in support and protection of all children and families. I am proud to be the superintendent in a district that upholds the values of our democracy in our daily work with students. I am proud to learn with you and from you as we come together to support our community and our country.
Thank you for all you do. I hope you and your families are enjoying the summer, and I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school in the weeks ahead.