Dear Weston Public Schools Community,
“I’ve dealt with racism from first grade until graduation. Growing up in Weston shattered my self esteem. All of my insecurities were validated by the people around me. I thought I needed to be white with blonde hair to be seen as attractive.”
“I was in 10th grade when a teammate told me to ‘Go fetch, slave’. I was in 11th grade when I witnessed a white student repeatedly hit my friend and asked them if it reminded them of their past.”
“These students thought it would be funny to team up on me one day when the teacher was using the restroom to use the time to make fun of my culture, race and the way I look. They laughed at me and degraded me because I’m Asian.”
“I was bullied countless times, verbally and physically, by multiple students who said I looked dirty, and mocked my name.”
“Weston eroded my identity for years to come…. My color, culture and faith have never been valid to the Weston community.”
We have read hundreds of accounts like these and received many powerful pleas from current and former students, faculty members and families to address a long history of racism in our country and more specifically, in the Weston Public Schools. The stories of both overt and covert racism are heartbreaking. While members of the Weston school community have worked to advance antiracism with their own social and emotional learning and practice, as a system, we have allowed white privilege to blind us to the daily impact of systemic racism. Since Weston schools have been organized around a dominant narrative, this privilege allowed us to avoid collective action.
We must hold antiracism as essential to the core of our work in the Weston Public Schools. Although our strategic plan includes goals around equity and social and emotional wellness, we acknowledge that we have been complicit in the culture of racism by not making an explicit system wide commitment to active antiracism. From this point forward, Weston Public Schools commits to hold antiracism as essential to the core of collective social and emotional well being in all of our work moving forward.
Antiracism is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. Our public school system must truly take care of each and every one of our students. We must address these five areas:
- Structures, systems, and traditions: How can we eliminate institutional bias here?
- Curriculum: What voices and perspectives do students need to hear as they learn content and develop skills?
- Instructional practices: How do we promote authentic engagement and rigor to a student body that is culturally and linguistically diverse?
- Assessment and grading practices: How do we measure achievement fairly and in a way that supports the continued growth and opportunity of each and every student?
- Community building: How do we better connect with one another and stay true to our public school values?
A few of our key efforts that are currently underway are:
1. Transformative, culturally responsive SEL aimed at educational equity:
The MA Department of Education encourages educators to consider SEL instruction on a continuum from access and exposure to culturally responsive SEL. By introducing this continuum, we seek to ensure that all educators are working to respect, value, and leverage students’ identities, backgrounds, and cultures and all students have meaningful teaching and learning of high-quality SEL. As we develop students’ social and emotional competencies, we collectively seek to ensure equity for all students.
Culturally proficient SEL refers to the creation of learning experiences that are bias-free and respectful of students’ diverse backgrounds, identities, strengths, and challenges; and Culturally responsive SEL refers to practices that actively draw upon students’ diverse backgrounds, identities, strengths, and challenges as a strategy to deepen learning. Teaching students about oppression, critical consciousness, and positive assertion for social justice are key aspects of building students’ social, emotional and cultural competence.
2. Systemic support of educators to create equitable learning environments:
This summer, we are hosting the first annual Culturally Responsive Leadership Institute which will be attended by a team of teachers and administrators from each school. These teams will then lead the school’s culturally responsive teaching professional development throughout the upcoming school year. Also, all teachers will complete the IDEAS Anti-Racist School Practices to Support the Success of All Students course as well as the Teaching for Equity and Inclusivity/Responsive Classroom course by June 2021.
3. SEL and equity partnerships with the community:
This fall we will assemble a task force made up of students, parents, community members, educators, administrators, and school committee members that will focus on the community engagement around antiracism. This taskforce will generate a course of action by late fall.
As a community, we are all at different places in our understanding of educational equity, cultural responsiveness, racial identity development and antiracism. We have asked our educators to read one or more of the following books this summer and we will facilitate organized book club discussions for faculty and staff in the fall. We invite parents, guardians and community members to read one or more of these books so that we can facilitate community conversations about race as well. Here is the link to the letter about book titles that was sent to all WPS staff:
Additionally, here are more resources for families supporting your children to be antiracist:
4. Implement best social, emotional and cultural practices from leading educational researchers, practitioners and policy makers:
The Weston Public Schools have racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity. Every student comes to school with their own individual culture and understanding and embracing this diversity makes us a stronger community. These best practices include guidance and expertise on equity and diversity; strategies for addressing system oppression and racism; anti-bias curriculum; building inclusive school communities and positive relationships; self-care, self management and mindfulness.
Many of the letters we received and accounts that we read expressed very real cynicism and concerns that nothing will change in Weston. We strongly disagree, with a systematic, step-by-step process that includes everyone in the district, we can work toward becoming a fully inclusive anti-racist multicultural organization. Since antiracism work is largely based on self-reflection and examination of one’s own experiences and beliefs, every member of the Weston Public Schools community is at a different place on the continuum from monocultural to antiracist multicultural. Moving all individuals in our organization in a systematic and consistent way requires unwavering commitment to this continuous work every single day.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” We can do better in Weston. The Weston Public Schools will do better.
The Administrative Team
Midge Connolly Ph.D., Superintendent
Amy Kelly, Director of District Advancement
Kimo Carter Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning
Sheri Matthews, Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations
Jennifer Truslow, Director of Student Services
Lee McCanne Ed.D., Director of Technology and Libraries
Tim Heavey, Director of Human Resources
Paul Peri, Principal, Weston High School
John Gibbons, Principal, Weston Middle School
Dan Green Ph.D., Principal, Field School
Jen Faber, Principal, Woodland School
Erin Maguire, Principal, Country School