Friday, August 27, 2021

Dear School Board

I emailed my local school board and superintendent the following message yesterday. My last two posts in Verbostratis were letters to leaders and followed a similar thread of thought, but this one is a bit simpler. I welcome constructive and supportive discussion of any of them. 

For background information regarding the topics: 

Waukesha Is Only Wisconsin School District To Opt Out Of Federal Free Meals Program 

Waukesha School District informs staff to remove controversial signage

Masks Optional For 2021-'22 School Year In Waukesha: The board of education removed most of its COVID-19 mitigation measures

RE: Requests to revisit masks, universal food service, anti-racism, and equity

To the WSD Board and Superintendent,

I ask you to close your eyes for a moment and take a long, deep breath in, hold it for a moment, and then let it slowly out in a long exhale before slowly opening your eyes once more.

Breath. We all do it. We all inhale, stop, and exhale over and over all day and all night long. Deep breaths feel good. Whatever we look like. Whatever our bank account says. Whatever language pours from our mouths. We all breathe.

That breath. We are all connected by that one need and many others. Whether we like it or not. Whether we believe it or not.

When you picture our students, I hope your vision includes ALL of them and ALL their realities. Do you see all the colors, all the genders, all the religions, all the ethnicities, all the classes and castes?

I hope. They all breathe. Just like you and me.

Angry parents, demanding citizenry, fuming pundits. How is their vision? How is their breath? It’s all shallow and constricted.

It’s a duty of the board and administration of a school system to help expand vision and breath- to cultivate that broad vision of ALL, despite the broken bits that some have. Will it upset some? No doubt. But we must remember, the goal is to help ALL the students breathe a bit better over time.

Because if all the students breathe well, they can create an amazing future for themselves- ALL of themselves- and their eventual children. It gives them the space to try and to fly. That’s what education is all about, in my opinion.

There’s a lot going on, but if I just focus on this idea of giving breath to all our students, I see these three things as vital. I hope you consider them:

  • Please work that universal food service back in for all our students. Shared meals are a time to be together as a community and being full makes one breathe easier. If there’s extra food, I am sure older students would gladly organize sharing with others in need. Extra waste? Get the students to build a district-wide composting program.
  • Please implement a mask mandate. We want our kids in school and that face-covering helps. Districts already in session across the country are seeing absences skyrocket.
  • Please get back to equity and anti-racism. It’s not political- it’s moral. Our history, civics, and literature cannot be taught without facing our full truths. If we face it, we can breathe.

I really hope the teachers have been provided with a strong support system for this 3rd school year of Covid. I really hope a detailed system is in place for parents/guardians for what the district will do when kids/teachers become ill and what the district needs them to do.

I hope we all work together so we can all breathe slowly in, pause, and slowly out...together.

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