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A Message from Superintendent Gumina

June 2, 2020

Dear Webster CSD Parents/Guardians,

As I have watched events unfold across the country and across the streets of our community, I have truly struggled coming up with the right words and message to send. Disgust, outrage, and sadness fill me at the moment, and as I spent time over the past 72 hours to craft a message of hope, empathy, and compassion, my anger kept getting in the way. Friends from our parent group, Families Igniting Racial Equity (F.I.R.E.), reached out to me over the past 12 hours and just said, “Say something, Carm, because silence is like consent.” So, I am going to listen to their guidance and weave a message that entails all of my emotions, because I have a feeling many of you may be feeling the same way.

On one hand, we are all grappling with the social-emotional impacts of a pandemic that may have forever changed our daily lives. And on the other hand, we have witnessed another senseless killing of an African American, George Floyd. We are out of “hands” that should be used to hug, console, and lovingly guide one another. I am sure we are all outraged that incidents like these continue to occur and as educators, we know that these incidents have a profound impact on our children. It is important that we acknowledge this event, reflect on the hurt and pain we are feeling, and resolve together to do our part to eradicate hate, condemn violence, and stand up to acts of racism within our own community. Our entire community suffers when even one individual feels their sense of safety and belonging is compromised.

At this moment, the word pandemic holds so much more meaning. We are facing a pandemic of racism, hate, and bias that threatens the freedom, peace, and well-being of every person in our nation. As we deal with the uncertainty of a post-COVID world, we once again are met with the harsh reality that some in our society do not value the lives of our neighbors based on the color of their skin. Make no mistake about it, what is happening in Minneapolis is part of a systemic issue that we need to talk about and address. What we are seeing across America is more than just a reaction to one incident; it is a culmination of years of dismissal, frustration, and anger.

Not being racist isn’t good enough. We have to be anti-racist! Being anti-racist is not a political ideology. Taking a stand against racial discrimination is not a conservative or liberal belief. Believing that all humans deserve the same rights, opportunities, and protections is a moral and ethical obligation. There is no half-way. As individuals, families, and communities, we need to be ALL IN to combat the racism and discrimination that seems to surround us.

We realize that our schools, like all schools, are a microcosm of the greater world and therefore, incidents of discrimination and racism may occur. I want all of our families to know that any such incident will be fully investigated and appropriate education and/or consequences will be assigned. We continue to partner with a number of organizations to provide professional staff development in the areas of culturally-responsive teaching, restorative practices, social justice, and others. Webster CSD’s partners include our parent group, F.I.R.E., the Equity and Diversity Task Force composed of faculty and staff (facilitated through a partnership that includes the district, Webster Teachers Association, and NYSUT), as well as our student-led DREAM clubs at each high school. Now, more than ever, our commitment must not waver. Just as I needed others to help me craft this message, we need to rely on each other to make the changes we want to see. It is incumbent upon every individual in our community to take the initiative and have the tough, uncomfortable conversations that are necessary to address incivility and hate.

To our students, I want to say that if you are feeling unsafe, please reach out to a trusted adult—whether it is a parent, guardian, relative, teacher, or administrator. We may not be together in our school buildings right now to provide you in-person support, but know that all of us are here to help you, protect you, and take care of your well-being, first and foremost. We love you and want only the best for your physical, social, and emotional health.

We ask that together, we use the widespread hurt, pain, and anger as a catalyst to create the type of society we desire for each and every one of our students. We pledge to do everything within our authority to eradicate acts of violence, hatred, and racism in our One Webster community and create an environment where every student feels a sense of safety, belonging, and inclusion.

Conversations around this topic are hard to have, but we have to have them. That has always been the lesson that I’ve learned from my friends in F.I.R.E. The great writer James Baldwin said it best, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The best way for us to get through this is to face it head on and talk about it. To this end, I’ve included some resources below that may be informative in having these discussions. As always, thank you for all that you do for our community and ALL of our children during these unsettling times.

Sincerely,

Carmen Gumina
Superintendent
 
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