On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, Kent School District Superintendent Dr. Calvin Watts released an updated version of a statement released on June 1 about the police killing of George Floyd:
Dear KSD Community,
As a result of the tragic death of George Floyd that we are experiencing together, I 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 quite a few days for me and my family to make sense of our own emotions and even begin to manage the grieving process.
I know ours is not the only family processing our emotions right now. This grieving process for all of us is also compounded by the overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on our entire community. So, how might we learn from this experience? How will we emerge as more informed and engaged citizens? How will we continuously improve? Answers to these questions cannot be derived from theorizing alone. It now becomes our moral responsibility as a K-12 organization to teach, to learn, to communicate, collaborate and think creatively about real solutions.
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 one 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.
While systemic racism, oppression, 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.
I am firmly aware of the impact institutions like public education have on perpetuating systemic racism and oppression. You have my pledge that our district will continue our equity, diversity, and inclusion work. We will prioritize teaching curriculum, especially history, that is more inclusive of the fifth largest and fourth most diverse school district in Washington state. We will invest in more literary resources from authors of color. We are committed to strengthening and upholding our Race and Equity Policy. And we remain committed to ensuring that our staff, as well as our curriculum and instruction are reflective of the communities we serve.
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, divisiveness, prejudice, bias, and fear?
This certainly was not the end of the 2019-20 school year for which any of us would have wished or could have ever predicted. But we have the power to 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