Dear Claremont families,
I hope you have been well since the last day of school. I want to reach out to share some reflections with our community during this pivotal time, and give you some important updates for the upcoming school year.
First, it has been a historic period initiated by the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and marches in recognition of the senseless murders of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. I have been moved by the organizational efforts of our youth, as well as the peaceful and focused leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a white educator, who has benefitted from white privilege my whole life, I know that I need to do more to bring race to the forefront of how we support students and families at Claremont and dismantle Institutional Racism in all of its various forms to create a better experience at Claremont for our students of color.
During my daughter’s high school graduation last week, OSA’s Principal (a former Claremont Student) quoted William Arthur Ward: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change, and the realist, adjusts the sails.”
When I think about my own experience and leadership style over the years, I believe that I have too often been the “Optimist” and hoped that, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous thought, “ Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” As a man of white privilege, I have had the luxury to “hope” that MLK’s vision was true. However, as we have seen with the murder of George Floyd and so many others, that is not a plan, a solution, nor is it enough. It is time for all of us to become realists, not just optimists. We all need to continually adjust the sails and capture the “winds of change.”
On that note, the OUSD Superintendent this past Wednesday night, with support from the school board and many OUSD leaders, including a majority of principals, has moved to defund Oakland School Police and think about how to re-envision what that will mean for our school district and how to spend the money that will be freed up as a result of this proposal. Superintendent and School Board Defund Police proposal. Please join me in celebrating the action and efforts currently being taken by OUSD on this critical issue.
I reflect on the words from one of the speakers I recently heard during a youth-led rally and march in Richmond. His message is that being politically active is like the “1-2 punch” in boxing. The marches and protests are the “1” or the left jab to keep the opponent off balance. But the “1”, is nothing without the “2” or the knockout punch. For this speaker, the “2” or knockout punch is the negotiating, getting a seat at the table, and changing the policies and outcomes for our black and brown citizens. I couldn’t agree more. My own personal “2” is that we vote this fall and get others to vote as well. These are indeed historic times and it is important that we all get involved to become the change that we want to see in the fight for a just society.
We need to teach our own children to be politically active and engaged citizens if we want to leave behind a world and a country that makes some audacious progress on the sickness of racism in America. As your principal, I want to provide you with some resources on how to talk with your teenager. I really like the following post from the New York times because each section is written directly to teenagers. They compiled the richest, most student-friendly articles, Op-Eds, videos, photos, graphs, and podcasts from The Times and elsewhere. NY Times discussing race, racism and George Floyd
Finally, as far as academic updates for the fall semester: The district has started to share the following: Given the rising cases overall in Alameda County and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities, we are recommending, at this time, that there be no full in-person instruction for the fall semester. What does that mean? That we will not have all 500 students on campus at the same time but will be relying on remote learning for a great deal of instruction, while we also try for some degree of in-person instruction focused on vulnerable/most impacted populations. (Much more to come on this topic)
I wish you quality time with your loved ones and a healthy and active summer. I will send out another update as we learn more about specific programming for the first day of school on August 10th.