June 2, 2020
Dear Watkinson Community,
In struggling to write this letter, I have been searching for a way to frame my thoughts and serve in a cogent and helpful way to lead us to a better place. After countless attempts to be clear and to make sense of recent events in our country, I realize it is neither possible nor, perhaps, right, to pretend to have insights and understandings I don’t possess. I simply write today from the precise and only place I occupy. As a school leader, educator, a mother, a white woman, and a citizen, I am witnessing, as you are, the horrible and grievous and unjust events that have taken place with the killing of George Floyd a week ago in Minneapolis and the protests that have ranged from peaceful to violent across the nation. We cannot escape those images, but rather must remain awake and attuned and take action. This, in the same week in which a Black man was reported to the police for simply asking a fellow New Yorker to leash her dog in accordance with the law, a call in which his accuser said he was “threatening her life.” This, in a month, in a year, over a decade and then more decades before. We are living through yet another time where racism and the violence spawned by systemic injustice has once again reached a boiling point, and all in the context of a global pandemic that by rights, should be bringing us together. I am saddened, outraged, and to be honest, nearly at a loss as to how to proceed. Nearly.
Last Friday, we gathered in a final All-School Meeting to celebrate the accomplishments and the career milestones of several members of our community. But before any of that happened, we took that occasion to acknowledge the all too real threats we all face when basic human rights are trampled. The ideals of “liberty and justice for all” have meaning only when they are coupled with resilient and consistently just actions. Words matter, of course they do, but just as it is easy to offer thoughts and prayers when the unthinkable happens, there comes a time when we need to do more. We must move beyond language and into the space of doing right and taking action.
As a school, Watkinson has always been a place where students have been encouraged, challenged, and expected to think deeply, to find their voices, and use them well. We have an extraordinary and intentionally diverse student body and phenomenally dedicated teachers, and together, we have defined our school community as simultaneously small and expansive. We are doggedly committed to helping young people develop a strong sense of self while, at the same time, connecting with one another and the world beyond campus. I am not alone in being proud of our students and their courage whenever they speak their truths, and over the course of the past week, I know I am also not alone in seeing that courage break through the barriers that keep many adults silent. It is scary for young people to speak. It is scary for marginalized people of any age to do so.
Because you are an important member of the Watkinson community, I wanted you to know that we are working with our students, families and employees to acknowledge the reality of this raw and explosive moment in our nation, and to create space to highlight and bring to the forefront these realities as a school. As such, Watkinson is having a community conversation on race and social justice for our students, faculty and staff tomorrow, June 4. As have been our goals for equity and social justice work throughout this school year, we hope that this conversation will raise awareness, promote dialogue, and make and strengthen connections. Unfortunately, the limitations of our dual reality dictate that despite my deepest wish that we could be together, this conversation will be a virtual one, but we will persist. I realize that our school year is coming to a close and that it may be easier to put off this conversation until next year. This is not the time to do what is easiest, so we will not wait.
I continue to place my faith in our human connection, our commitment to being a school community dedicated to the education of our students, and to being a courageous place where we are able to think and act with compassion and courage, with dedication to equity and inclusion, and to the well-being and care of each of our students. We will continue to listen to our people of color, have difficult, critical conversations, and continue to come together to address what we must take up.
Wishing you peace as we go forward,