Dear colleagues, families, and partners,
After a long and often divisive election season, we have heard from students, families, and staff who have expressed ambiguity and anxiety following Tuesday's election. It is normal for us as a community, as a nation, and as a people to struggle with this change, and I appreciate the efforts that you are taking to help students and families make sense of the uncertainties we face after a very turbulent national election.
I write to you today to reaffirm the work we have done over the years to envision our AUSD’s mission to provide “an inclusive, safe, and secure environment” for every member of our community. I want to remind us all of the great work we are doing to take care of one another and to renew our commitment to the rights of all people to be here and to be provided with the promise public education holds – the promise of a progressive agenda that respects the rights of all people. Regardless of the divisive rhetoric that has oft dominated this presidential campaign, I am confident our democratic values will prevail, and we must remember to keep faith in that. We must continue our efforts to improve our world around us.
Last night I was encouraged, heartened, and uplifted while visiting school events that embodied our commitment to promoting and safeguarding great places to learn in Alameda Unified School District.
At a Haight Elementary School PTA meeting, I sat and listened to parents, teachers, and students coming together in mindfulness training that is practiced in many of our classrooms and schoolyards daily across the district. We all do well to simply stay mindful of what is happening now and to stay mindful of our goal of finding peace and unity in times of challenge and opportunity.
At Wood Middle School, I saw hundreds of families, staff, and students come together to showcase their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programs that aim to integrate arts instruction with other core curricula so young people are reached in ways that recognize and honor them as whole people who are using hands and hearts and minds to make sense of the world around them.
At Alameda Adult School, I was uplifted by an open house for dozens of families that saw all kinds of people convening in fellowship to break bread together, many of whom are immigrants who are trying to better themselves by learning English and continuing their educations so they can work to achieve the American Dream and make better lives for themselves, their families, and the Alameda community.
Finally, I was so inspired by my visit to Ruby Bridges Elementary School where a graduation ceremony was held for our newest graduates of the PTA School Smarts Academies we provide to our families, and I was also totally amazed by the fact that we now offer this seven-session program in six different languages
(Arabic, Chinese, English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese). Throughout the evening and across the island, I witnessed people of diverse backgrounds and experiences coming together to better themselves and improve our world. I know firsthand that we are working hard and working together for progress.
And that was just some of the great work happening in our schools on one Wednesday night in November, the night after Tuesday’s political election! Now, both today and yesterday, we have seen some students at our high schools staging peaceful demonstrations and walkouts of classes, and staff of both AUSD and Alameda Police Department working to support students’ peaceful examples of collective action.
I know students, families, and staff in our schools are struggling at times with making meaning of the world and nation we live in now. The most important thing that we can do is take stock in our strength, take heart in our progress over the years, take care of one another, and give support to those who need it in a time of change and uncertainty. I still believe everyone belongs here, and I know I am not alone in this. This week, I have spoken with leaders and members of ACSA, AEA, CSEA 27, CSEA 860, and PTAs to share our concerns and make sure we are all still working together to take care of one another. I want us all to remember AUSD remains steadfast in commitment to our diverse community, and please know I am grateful to you all for continuing to work together and show care for one another daily during this time.
For those of us who are frightened of losing ground on the progress we have made, let us remember the great strides we have made at a local and state level, whether it be the passage of the renewal parcel tax, Measure B1, or passage of Proposition 51, Proposition 55, and Proposition 58 that have been momentous reminders of progress we are making to prioritize and take a stand for progressive education in Alameda and the state. Things are getting better in many powerful ways in Alameda and California, and we need to keep striving to keep the momentum up so we maintain our progress.
So let us remember that we believe as a community and as a school district that everyone belongs here. Regardless of whatever challenges and opportunities we face now, AUSD will continue to work toward uplifting all we serve and taking care of each other, and I thank you for your daily work to make it so.
Sean McPhetridge, Ed.D.