June 3, 2020 - Superintendent's Statement to the Community
Ann Arbor Public Schools
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
It is a heartbreaking time as we have experienced another tragic death of an unarmed African American man, Mr. George Floyd, in Minneapolis as well as recent distressing events that have unfolded right here in Washtenaw County. As a direct result of the devastating, long-term impacts of outright and systemic racism, African Americans in our community and across our country live, attend school and go about their lives in fear. We know that this situation is unacceptable, and things must change.
In the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we condemn, stand up and speak out against all acts of bigotry and racism. President Barack Obama shared in a statement recently, “This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.” We must be better.
In the AAPS Equity Plan, equity is defined as “the moral responsibility of each member of our learning community to take the intentional actions necessary to create a learning community free of barriers, biases, and disproportionality for each and every person regardless of personal characteristics and social circumstances.” The clarifying phrases, ‘to take the intentional actions necessary’ and ‘to create a learning community free of barriers, biases, and disproportionality,’ inform our work to serve students and support staff each day.
While tragic events such as those we have seen occurring repeatedly across our country are shocking, and it is critically important to lift our voices in outcry, this is also the right time to renew the work of reflection, of listening, learning and critical conversation with each other. As I engage with and hear directly from Black leaders and teachers, and other members of our AAPS team, their generously shared experiences compel me to remember that, in addition to speaking out in the public square, there exists a parallel space where we must remain vigilant in the work for justice. We must challenge ourselves to evaluate what we are teaching our children in the classroom and how we can better equip our students with the necessary awareness of racism, historical knowledge, and confidence to go into the world and create a better future. We must turn within to consider the muted ways that bias, bigotry and racism may subsist beneath the surface in ourselves and our own work settings, on our teams, in our organizations and across our Ann Arbor community.
We must hear the lived experience of our African American students, colleagues and families, we must work on ourselves and work together to see with new eyes, to root out the insidious and pervasive infection of racism: the diminishment of spirit and passion, of life, career and opportunity that can, without our renewed vigilance, quietly exist in the familiar daily environment where we work and live. Yes, even in places such as Ann Arbor.
Our AAPS colleague and district leader, Ms. Jazz Parks, in a perceptive message shared recently with white leaders, encourages us to find our way to grow from, “allies and accomplices to true abolitionists and co-conspirators, not only in creating equitable educational systems for our students but also in standing up in support of your black colleagues to others.” I commit to grow myself as an abolitionist and co-conspirator in this effort toward change, and I hope that you will join me in doing so.
Together, we can, and we must, do better. Let us raise our voices against horrific acts of racial injustice, willingly confront the significant work that begins within ourselves and our organizations, support each other in this ongoing process, and hold one another accountable to deliver results. This is the effort we owe to ourselves and to each other, for our children and the future we want to share in our Ann Arbor Public Schools community.
Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools