Listening and Learning

This week marked the beginning of our senior celebrations for the Class of 2020. I have seen so many incredible moments as our faculty and staff came together to plan this unique opportunity to celebrate our graduates despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our students, especially our seniors, have already dealt with so much adversity this year, but they have done so with tremendous patience, understanding, and grace.

And as we prepare to send the Class of 2020 out into the world, I found myself compelled to share a message with them and with our entire school community as recent events have added a new layer of complexity to the world our young adults will inherit. These events have shined a light on the systemic inequities and disparities that continue to exist in our nation and on issues that cannot be ignored.

I know that many of our students and families are hurting right now as we bear witness to unthinkable acts of hatred and racism occurring across our country.  And many of us do not know where to start or what to say.  That is an unfamiliar role for us.  Part of our job as educators is to create safe spaces for learning and to lead courageous conversations about injustice, to speak up against discrimination of any kind.  And while the pandemic has closed our doors, making it difficult for us to connect in our usual fashion, our hearts remain open.

It’s in times like these that we must remember our core values, the very ideals that define who we are and what we stand for as a school district.  Chesapeake Public Schools prides itself on values that we put at the forefront of what we do each day: equity, innovation, integrity, accountability, and excellence.  More than ink on paper, these principles are intended to guide our work and inform our decisions, and that includes moments when we must deal with difficult issues in our classrooms, schools,  or in our community.

Over the past few months, I have seen tremendous resilience in our school community.  Our school family has come together to support each other, to protect each other, and even celebrate each other during the pandemic.  Because Chesapeake Public Schools is a family, and that’s what families do.  Now, in the midst of great tragedy, is the time for us to continue to care for one another and live our core values.

This is an opportunity for us to unite, once again, and to listen and learn.  But unity doesn’t mean simply coming together; it means being committed to finding what connects us, leaving judgment behind, and respecting the lived experiences of another.

As I said before, I truly believe our success will continue to be measured in terms of how well we take care of each other. And to the seniors we continue to celebrate this week, my hope is that this is one of the final lessons you take from your educational experience in Chesapeake Public Schools. We must approach our daily lives through the lens of compassion toward others, with empathy and with respect. You have all the tools you need at your disposal to make this world, your world, a better and safer place for the generations that will follow you.

I want every member of our school community to know that your Chesapeake Public Schools family is here for you.  We are not silent.  We are listening.  We are learning.  We are here, and we will navigate this challenging time together.