FOR RELEASE: June 9, 2020
The senseless death of George Floyd and the resulting protests are a call to action for all people of conscience, especially school leaders. We must channel our outrage into productive discussions and actions at the local, state and national levels.
The Pledge of Allegiance refers to “Liberty and Justice for All.” What can we do to ensure that all children, particularly Black and Brown children, grow up in a world filled with opportunity and justice rather than hostility and fear?
The answer must involve education, which Horace Mann called "the great equalizer of the conditions of men." Public schools are designed to be engines of equality and equity, and everyone troubled by the death of George Floyd and similar events should be prioritizing public schools as a vehicle for not just progress, but transformation.
School boards will be part of the solution because they are dedicated to seeing every child succeed. Like leaders of all organizations, school board members can benefit from learning (or learning more) about implicit bias, structural racism, white privilege and anti-racism. Today, understanding such concepts is critical to creating safe and supportive school environments where all students feel accepted and valued.
NYSSBA has long been active in addressing issues related to race, including helping schools change policies and providing training in implementing restorative justice. We have focused on the issue of equity in our advocacy efforts regarding state aid for schools. And we have planned and held equity summits in cooperation with the New York State Caucus of Black School Board Members, Columbia University Teachers College and the New York State Council of School Superintendents’ Commission on Diversity & Inclusivity.
But the senseless death of George Floyd and the protests held in response motivate us to redouble our efforts to address racism and unfairness. NYSSBA plans to convene discussions in the near future to address the role of schools in creating a society that lives up to our ideals. We applaud our member school districts and BOCES that have been doing or are planning meetings with the same agenda. Let the difficult and honest conversations begin.
Finally, as school leaders across New York State we must ensure that we educate our students about the principles of equal justice and the importance of upholding the tenets of the Constitution of the United States for all of its citizens.
Fred Langstaff, President
William Miller, Immediate Past President & Area 5 Director
Peggy Zugibe, 1st Vice President & Area 10 Director
Sandra Ruffo, 2nd Vice President & Area 4 Director
Thomas Nespeca, Treasurer
Linda Hoffman, Area 1 Director
Rodney George, Area 2 Director
Christine Schnars, Area 3 Director
Wayne Rogers, Area 6 Director
Cathy Lewis, Area 7 Director
Brian LaTourette, Area 8 Director
John Redman, Area 9 Director
Robert "B.A." Schoen, Area 11 Director
Catherine Romano, Area 12 Director
Sharon Rencher, Area 13 Director
Michael Jaime, NYS Caucus of Black School Board Members
Willa Powell, Big Five School Districts
Robert S. Schneider, Secretary & Executive Director, NYSSBA