Since our last meeting on November 1st there was an election for President of the United States. In the wake of this Presidential election, many voices have been heard throughout the country and here in New Rochelle. Some of those voices have expressed concern about divisions among us; some have expressed hope that we will be able to come together as one country; and some have expressed messages of hate and contempt for others which are deeply troubling.
At least for the moment, we are seeing an escalated national level of intolerance, incivility and intimidation. Our students are well aware of current events, and many have articulated to me that there is fear among some that they will not be afforded the protections they deserve, or will be treated as non-participants in the American dream.
The success of public education in New Rochelle and the meaning of our mission statement is more important than ever. As the leader of this school district, I am confident that I speak for our faculty, our administrators, our support staff and our community when I say that our schools will and must be a place of welcome and support for all of our students. All means All. Our mission statement says that we embrace our rich diversity. We are intentional in this language. It is not our mission to tolerate difference or accept those unlike ourselves. We embrace our rich diversity.
This means that we actively welcome, celebrate, support, and serve all our students and families, and that the differences among us add value for all of us. All means all – all ethnicities, all religions, all races, all family structures, all sexual identities, all sexual orientations, all learning challenges, all differences in physical abilities, all places of birth, all immigrants, all income levels, all walks of life.
In the presidential campaign and the aftermath of the election, the rhetoric of our national political discourse at the highest levels has stereotyped, targeted and blamed many groups by name, provoking fear and doubt. In response to that rhetoric, let us be clear that embracing our rich diversity means that here in the City School District of New Rochelle, we honor, embrace and celebrate those who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or searching; those that are of African descent, who are Latino or Asian or Indian or Native American, or European; those that are biracial or multiracial; those who are undocumented or documented or citizen, born in the US or anywhere else; those who are differently abled or who learn differently; those whose native language is Spanish or Creole or English or any other language; those who are female, transgendered, cisgendered or male; those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, or questioning – and all who are rich and complex intersections. And we mean this about each one of our children and staff and parents and community members, taking our individual differences not as something to tolerate but as something to celebrate, something that adds value, to be supported and protected.
Accordingly, in this time of uncertainty, we reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of each person and the values that reflect the strength of our democracy, and the continuing vitality of our national founding documents:
Our schools will remain places of civility and respect, and we will not accept abusive conduct towards any student.
Our schools will remain havens of safety for all students where differences in race, ethnicity or religion will be respected and appreciated
Our schools will remain havens of safety for students of all gender identities or sexual orientation.
Our schools will remain havens of safety for all students of all national origins and without regard to immigration status.
I’ll end the superintendent’s update by quoting from Principal Richardson’s powerful letter to students the day after the election: “I want you to know that you are loved and supported by your family, all of the adults here at school as well as those in the community. We are so fortunate to be a part of such a diverse, vibrant and inclusive community as New Rochelle. I ask that you never take this for granted and take full advantage of the opportunities presented by living and learning in a community as diverse as this one.”