Dear Underwood Families,
December is already whizzing by and, before we know it, we will bring 2021 to a close. I have been incredibly impressed with our efforts to maintain a safe and healthy school environment. Our staff are 100% vaccinated, 71% of our students have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, over 85% of our students are participating in weekly pool testing, families are conducting daily health assessments, and students and staff continue to abide by our Covid-19 healthy and safety guidelines throughout each school day. Although Covid-19 rates across the Commonwealth and variants remain a concern, I am grateful we have navigated these challenging times in a productive manner together.
Indeed we have demonstrated our commitment to each other in many ways. Parents and caregivers have generously donated food, clothing, and boots in order to support those in need within our community and beyond. During the week of Thanksgiving, families and students extended gratitude to teachers and staff through words of kindness along with snacks and drinks. Through professional learning, staff members have deepened their understanding of anti-racism and racial identity in our collective effort to live out our NPS values and commitments to equity. I am honored to serve a school community that actively seeks out opportunities to extend care, reflects on what shapes our identities, and celebrates the strengths we possess.
While all of this brings me great joy, I must also share that some things have happened over the last two weeks within our community that I find deeply troubling. As some of you may already know, two principals within the Newton Public Schools have been targeted by particular media for work that is happening at Bigelow and Newton North High School. Following the Kyle Rittenhouse and Ahmaud Arbery cases, both principals created opportunities for staff and students to learn more about these national events as well as the option to share their thoughts about the recent verdicts. As educational leaders at the secondary level, they recognized that some students and staff were impacted by these events and offered optional spaces for those interested to ask questions, learn more, and feel supported. I was saddened to learn that both principals were not only attacked by certain media outlets for living out our NPS core values, but threats to their personal safety and that of their loved ones were also made. It is even more disturbing that the two NPS principals who were specifically targeted also identify as Black. Given our district-wide efforts to dismantle structures that support racism across so many NPS schools, I can’t help but conclude that they were deliberately spotlighted due to their race. While disagreements about how to best support students in the wake of these verdicts may be inevitable, this sort of threatening and racist behavior is intolerable. I feel fortunate knowing our students, staff and families remain fully committed to establishing an inclusive, equitable and anti-racist Underwood community. As we move forward, I trust we will take time to insist on our capacity to empathize, listen to and dignify the humanity of others. In the spirit of learning together and supporting our growth, I invite you to review some resources that may be helpful.
December is one of my favorite months of the year because it tends to offer the chance for friends and families to spend quality time together. Seasons are changing and many people reflect on all that has happened during the year while anticipating what’s to come in the new year. December is also a time when the diversity of our community is reflected through many meaningful celebrations. Whether you observed Hanukkah earlier this month or will celebrate the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the New Year over the next few weeks, I hope the season brings you a feeling of cheer, connection and peace. Enjoy the upcoming break with your loved ones and see you in 2022!