To Our Students, Families, Staff, and Community,
Events of the past few months have again brought to the forefront the harsh reality of what it truly means to be Black and live in American society. We acknowledge that the reality of devaluing Black lives is not a new phenomenon and in doing so, we acknowledge, once again, the need and urgency for actions that will bring about lasting change.
Over the past two months, we have been inundated with graphic scenes, impassioned words and cries, and bold opposition to the status quo via news outlets, social media, and statements from individuals and organizations that consider themselves allies. This awakening has had unique and unexpected outcomes. The voices which have supported Black lives have grown increasingly louder; and words and actions of support appear to be matching stated beliefs. What continues to be an unfortunate part of our history, however, is that we find ourselves here again. The events of the past two months closely echo events of centuries past when Black men, women and children were not viewed for their humanness. The long history of exploitation, systemic oppression, disenfranchisement from many various parts of the American dream and access to educational, political, social and economic opportunities has been a dream deferred and largely held captive by a system designed to maintain white supremacy.
Over the last 30 days, we have either heard or read countless times that many systems by which our country operates are broken, things must change, and the Black community stands supported. All of these words offer some promise IF those who are willing to stand up and speak out ensure all populations whose voices are largely ignored are heard. An important fact must be acknowledged: the system is not broken at all; it is operating just as it was designed. Action must support our “awakened” beliefs.
The Grand Rapids Public Schools is dedicated to our mission that ALL GRPS students are educated, productive and self-directed members of society by ensuring access to an equitable educational experience that celebrates and capitalizes on the diversity of our students, staff, and community. We are committed to becoming:
- A space where students learn to actively participate as productive members of a democratic society.
- A model school district where equity and inclusion are infused in every aspect of our district landscape for all students and staff.
- An organization where biases are recognized, challenged, and eliminated to create a supportive and inclusive environment so barriers to success are removed.
- A community in which our diversity is understood, valued and respected by all.
Working to ensure that we truly meet our goals, we have established the GRPS Equity team. Our equity team is a subset of GRPS educators committed to equity and action. We study the practices that perpetuate injustice and inequity so that we can disrupt pervasive attitudes, beliefs, and actions that prevent us from true change--a change that will positively affect life outcomes for our students. We are tired of having the same conversations! We want change, which is dependent upon action!
To that end, we will do the following:
- Work to ensure that messaging to and about our students, families, and community are appropriate and helpful,
- Evaluate the written and taught curriculum to mitigate culturally biased instructional materials, assessments, and pedagogies while ensuring the trueinclusion of marginalized populations,
- Ensure that staff has ongoing, embedded, and actionable professional learning opportunities;
- Examine the history of GRPS and acknowledge how we have created processes and systems that discriminate against our students, eliminating them when found,
- Establish a set of declaratory statements that express non-negotiables with reference to practices and policies that negatively impact marginalized populations,
- Closely review and refine district policies and procedures that negatively impact marginalized populations,
- Conduct equity audits to collect data, use data to make and monitor change, and assess progress, and
- Examine district collaborations to ensure GRPS partners share our same commitment to equity and inclusion.
We understand the importance of not only expressing that we stand with our Black students and families but equally important is making our intentions public to our students, families and the community from whom we receive support.
Our students’ Black lives matter and until we truly address the inequities inherent to and present in our system, the Equity Team is afraid that not only will we fail to realize our mission, but we, in fact, will become yet another system telling them that their lives don’t matter.
We are enlisting your trust and support as we continue along this journey.
Yours in Service,
Leadriane Roby, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Maleika Joubert Brown, Ed.S
Director of Equity and Inclusion
GRPS Equity Leadership Team Members