On Monday, June 1, 2020, Kent School District Superintendent Dr. Calvin Watts released the following statement about the police killing of George Floyd:
Dear KSD Community,
I write to you today from a place of shared grief and pain. Grief from the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd. Pain from what has occurred across many cities in our nation in the days since.
I want to acknowledge the range of emotions that our students, staff, and families may be experiencing. I also want to recognize the emotional trauma that the deaths of unarmed black men, women and children evoke in people of color everywhere. I acknowledge these feelings because I have been experiencing them myself. It has taken a few days for me and my family to make sense of our own emotions and even begin to manage the grieving process.
Many of us, no matter our age, race, gender, or creed are grieving, and that grief may be manifesting itself in many ways, including physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This grief is also compounded by the overwhelming impacts of COVID-19 on our learning community.
While systemic racism, oppression and marginalization and the coronavirus global health pandemic have been catastrophic to our community, only time and our commitment to collective individual responses will determine how quickly, and how well we emerge from these current realities.
More than ever, I believe in the power of education. We must continue educating ourselves, our children and each other about our shared history, no matter how uncomfortable and difficult it may be. In fact, I believe that some of the best lessons our children have learned during this COVID-19 pandemic, is that adults do not always have the right answer to an existing problem. As a result, we must continue listening to, learning from, and teaching our young people so they are fully informed of the cornerstones of racism upon which our country was founded, and still serve as the reason why George Floyd’s body is no longer with us. When we do this well, our children will grow to help us build bridges toward a better, more just and equitable society. This, I believe.
I also believe each KSD student has something to contribute to our community and world because of their diverse lived experiences. The diverse voices, perspectives, and talents of our KSD students and their families fill me with hope in this challenging moment. After meeting recently with our Principal Intern Leadership Academy Cohort, and with our KSD Educators of Color Cohort on Thursday, I believe they feel the same way. And I know our KSD staff members are hurting now too. So, what are we waiting for? Now is the time for us to choose. Will we be the community that stands for justice, peace and hope for a better tomorrow? Or, will we choose to spread the seeds of anger, hurt, divisiveness, prejudice, bias and fear?
Finally, I am not naïve about the role institutions like public education have historically played in the marginalization of many in our community. You have my pledge that our district will continue to improve our own equity, diversity, and inclusion work. We will do more to teach curriculum, especially history, that is more inclusive of the fifth largest and fourth most diverse school district in the state. We will invest in more literary resources from authors of color. We will ensure our policies and practices do not perpetuate harm. And we will continue to improve our work to ensure that our staff, our curriculum, and our instruction are reflective of the communities we serve.
This certainly was not the end of the 2019-20 school year any of us could have predicted or would prefer. So, we can choose how our next chapter will be written. Our KSD community can show love in the face of hatred, remain courageous in these times of fear and ignorance, and we can walk and work side by side, as we lead ourselves together.
In partnership and service,
Dr. Calvin J. Watts
Kent School District Superintendent