Dear Oak Park Elementary School District 97 Family,
My heart is heavy as I reflect on the events that have occurred not only this past week but over the past several years. The tragic and preventable death of George Floyd has been a painful reminder of the deep, systemic racism that persists across so many of our nation’s institutions. As a mother of two black sons, an educational leader and a woman of color, I am frankly unsure if reaffirming who we are and what we believe as a school community is enough to dismantle white supremacy in our country—a country who has witnessed another senseless killing of a Black man at the hands of a legal authority figure.
I know we are blessed to live and work in a school community where our primary focus is to create a positive learning environment for all District 97 students that is equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child. I know our school community shares the following beliefs, which provide the lens through which we embrace our work:
We believe …in all of our students and staff. We value and respect every individual, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, language, religion, economic background or culture.
We believe …in providing every student access to engaging and challenging academic learning experiences.
We believe…in supporting students to develop tolerance, empathy, and care for each other and the world in which they live.
We believe…that we must address the inequities we see in our school and community. We know our inequities are rooted in systemic oppression, racism, and white supremacy and that we must challenge them directly.
Today I want to use my platform to ask you to activate our shared beliefs by taking action. My hope is that families and communities will engage in conversations about how we as a society must do better. Resources you may find beneficial in addressing bias and systemic racism:
- Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup
- An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism
- Why #BlackLivesMatter in Your Classroom Too
Finally, I encourage you to stand in solidarity against acts of racism, disrespect and inequitable treatment of all people, knowing that our Black and Brown communities need our support now more than ever.
Moments like this are why we teach. Schools can serve as a breeding ground to change our world for the better, and we are committed to doing just that. My hope is that we can all work together so that children in Oak Park and communities across the country will have a very different experience as it relates to race and injustice.
Dr. Carol Kelley
“Our silence will not protect you,” as Audre Lorde wrote:
“I was forced to look upon myself and my living with a harsh and urgent clarity that has left me still shaken but much stronger…
In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.
I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.
What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
"Oak Park Elementary School District 97 will create a positive learning environment for all students that is equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child."