Superintendent's Reflection on MLK Jr. and Our Schools
January 18, 2019
Dear KLSD Community,
As superintendent, part of my job is to cheerlead and to celebrate all that is wonderful about KLSD. In our bi-weekly e-newsletters, you see incredible work from our students and staff of whom I am so very proud. Another part of my job is to be constructive critic. I look at our district through different lenses – instructional, social/emotional, and organizational – for ways we can improve.
With the arrival of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday comes the opportunity to look through the lens of Dr. King’s thinking. In 1964, he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” As a foundation of our democracy, public schools are charged with helping an entire community’s children learn to “live together” positively and productively. Our students must be prepared to learn and work effectively in teams that are increasingly diverse as our world grows smaller and more connected. So we make every effort to help our students appreciate one another’s differences, benefit from one another’s strengths, and support one another through challenging times.
How are we doing through this lens? On the whole, pretty well. I visit our schools almost daily. I see busy classrooms, quiet hallways, students pursuing the challenges their teachers provide, and students typically polite and respectful.
But we shouldn’t be lulled into thinking that our schools are immune to the biases, the bullying, and the divisions that are so visible in our nation’s wider culture. On occasion, that culture finds its way into our schools. How could it not, given that we are all subject to its influence? All five of our schools must still address moments of misunderstanding, of hurt, and of intolerance between students. As parents, we know that our children can be deeply impacted by even a single such moment, a moment they might not share with us, a moment we might not see, and a moment that might be fleeting.
As a result, we will keep working to encourage kindness and respect. Our elementary schools regularly rethink and renew their character education programs, and with the support of our Special Education PTO, continue to run the annual “Differences Day.” Middle and high school teachers, among other efforts, are working with a program called Facing History and Ourselves. Our high school last year qualified as one of the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate schools. We have also brought in representatives of GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) to do training with all our staff. Still, we know our efforts are not perfect and we know that schools alone will not bring about Dr. King’s vision.
It takes the daily, collective attention of a community to nurture that community’s future. It takes daily conversations and ongoing interest in the well-being of all children. As I have in the past, I invite your partnership in this work, and I thank you for it. I invite you this weekend to talk with your children about another thought of Dr. King’s, that “life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
I wish everyone a good weekend, and, as always, I thank you for your continuing support.
Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent of Schools