Dr. Fred Brill, Superintendent
Small Learning Communities in San Lorenzo High Schools
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Open Letter from Superintendent Brill
Dear Members of the San Lorenzo Community,
There have been deeply disturbing incidents in Ferguson, New York City, and communities all across our country that have come to light in the media and exposed some of the racial inequalities that have existed for decades. As an educator deeply committed to the success of all children, I must acknowledge that these issues are not exclusive to the police and their interactions with people of color. We need only look at the disparities in our own achievement data and suspension data to see that we play a role in perpetuating such devastating inequalities.
As the superintendent of the San Lorenzo Unified School District, it would be all too easy to brush aside these heart-rending incidents as someone else’s problems; we cannot make the false claim that the demonstrations in Oakland and Berkeley do not represent the pain and fear experienced by individuals residing in and working in our community. All of us can acknowledge that, while our country has made progress in addressing equity issues, we have a long way to go until all of our students and community members reside in a safe community with equitable opportunities and outcomes.
I am honored and humbled to be a part of a District Leadership Equity Team (that has been meeting for seven years), focused on examining the behaviors and beliefs, the systems and symbols, that contribute to the inequitable outcomes we are replicating. Our team regretfully acknowledged that in our classrooms, schools, District and community, we are part of a system with deep institutional racism.
My intent here is not to point fingers or cast blame. Rather, I believe that with the news coverage and the public expressions of anger, frustration, outrage, and despair, there is a window of opportunity to support a public dialogue in a safe and peaceful manner.
As a first step, we have distributed literature to our teachers, including Edutopia: Race and Violence Should be a School-wide Subject and The Root: Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching About Ferguson. Our teachers and support staff are engaging in conversations with each other, and those teachers with the skills and comfort level are beginning to facilitate age-appropriate conversations with students about the events taking place in our community and across the nation. Additionally, we are planning a Restorative Circle with our District Leadership Equity Team, as well as a Dialogue Meeting open to all District Staff in early January.
I would like to invite all families and staff to participate in a Community-wide Dialogue for Understanding and Change which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 13 from 4:00-5:30 at the Arroyo High School Gym (translators will be provided). The purpose of the event is to: 1) Facilitate a public forum to better understand the challenging race-related issues that have been taking place for decades across our country; 2) Deepen our understanding of the various roles and responsibilities we play in perpetuating, or improving, the current conditions in our community (We must acknowledge how incredibly challenging it is to be a student, parent, family member, educator, peace officer, given many of the conditions we face.); and 3) Create a space to identify the specific actions we can take to create a safer, more positive, productive and equitable environment for our children and families to live, grow and thrive.
I look forward to your collaboration as we create a more just and equitable environment in our schools, community and society. I wish you all a safe and restful holiday season.
The San Lorenzo Unified School District teachers and staff will collaborate with families and the community to cultivate safe learning environments and ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students
Students will become creative, collaborative, compassionate, resilient, well-informed and socially responsible advocates for equity and social justice as a result of their education, experience and support from educators, families and the community.
On January 9th, over 100 SLZUSD directors, administrators, teachers, and community partners started the new year by learning more about Restorative Practices (RP). The aim of Restorative Practices is to develop community and to manage conflict and tensions by building relationships and repairing harm. To learn more, click here. Led by Amos Clifford of The Center of Restorative Process, this day was a unique and powerful experience. Sitting together in a large circle, participants actively participated in a variety of restorative exercises including an appreciative inquiry where volunteers used a structured process to publicly thank and appreciate someone else in the group. The tone of the day was overwhelmingly positive and created a feeling of care and closeness that will in turn radiate out and impact our larger school community. Here is what people are saying about the day:
“I thought the last training we had was the best ever. We used to use classroom circles years ago and this will help us to start them again.”
“This is exactly where we should be spending more professional development time with teachers and staff.”
“The day helped me form a closer tie with my administrator and colleagues.”
“I now have a powerful tool to use in the classroom to resolve conflicts at the classroom level, build community, and share positive feelings about one another.”
Visit http://www.centerforrestorativeprocess.com/ to download a free Restorative Circles curriculum guide.
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