Letter to the community about appreciating each other during these trying times

To our families and members of the Scotia-Glenville community:

At a time when our community and nation were already in upheaval due to the pandemic, a second crisis occurred with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Mr. Floyd’s death has led to protests throughout the world, including those held in Schenectady, Albany, Troy and surrounding communities.  My heart breaks for Mr. Floyd and his family, but that is of little consequence if we do not seize this moment and use it to examine our own behavior, practices, and beliefs.

As a young teacher of children with special needs, I spent a good deal of time talking to others about tolerance.  I wanted people to tolerate the children I taught, despite their differences or abilities compared to “typical” students.  Though my heart was in the right place, my approach was wrong.  Then, as now, this is not about teaching tolerance, it is about acceptance.

We must do a better job of accepting each other and push ourselves to connect and understand, regardless of skin color, ability, wealth, or our desire to be surrounded by those most like us. We must do a better job of recognizing and celebrating the very things that make us different…the gifts we each bring to the table. I am not naive; this takes work.  The work will make some people uncomfortable, some angry, some frightened….but it is work that we must do.

I have always thought of our schools as places that taught acceptance, but we realized a few years ago that our efforts were not getting sustainable results.  Beginning in the 2017 – 2018 school year, we implemented a district initiative to truly examine our practices, our messaging to students and families, and our personal beliefs around diversity. Our goal was, and is, to use that information to create change and be more culturally responsive to our community.

Working towards this goal, we have collaborated with others. We are working with Damani Farley and Common Thread Consultants and Michael Arterberry, creator of the Power of Peace Program. To date, students and staff have participated in professional development, administrators read and discussed books, and community meetings were held.  Most recently, we began to plan with Tangible Development to increase our efforts and improve outcomes.  Do I think it is enough?  No, I don’t. This is critical work that must continue…but now, with a renewed sense of urgency. We must be a community that embraces change, that dedicates itself to the acceptance of all, and that values what makes us different.

Each time I am able to address our staff as a group, I ask them to be the best version of themselves for our students, their families and each other.  I ask you to join us in that mission as we work to ensure equity is our practice.

If you would like more information about how to have conversations with your child about this topic, please visit the websites and resources below.

Susan M. Swartz, Superintendent

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Desmond Tutu

RESOURCES

Podcasts 

Videos & Other Resources 

Books 

  • “How To Be An Antiracist” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
  • “We Want to Do More Than Survive” by Bettina Love
  • “White Fragility” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo