July 1, 2020
Dear South Bay Union Elementary School District Community,
The tragic and senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, and far too many other black, indigenous, and other people of color have shaken our country to its core. As collective leaders in our school community, we must make our voices heard loud and clear – Pine Hill and South Bay, the schools' parents have entrusted with educating their children, and the schools that staff has chosen to work at, are not only non-racist but anti-racist; not only non-discriminatory but anti-discriminatory.
However, we also recognize that racism and discrimination exist – even on elementary campuses. Over the last few weeks, our hearts broke as we listened to the firsthand experiences of black, indigenous, and other people of color being excluded, belittled, or made not to feel safe. One of our employee hallmarks of RESPECT is to Listen Completely, Then Respond Appropriately. To that end, in this moment and in every moment moving forward, we call on our entire school community to stand in unity, committing to doing everything within our control to end racism, discrimination, and prejudice.
The question is how does the South Bay Union Elementary School District do our part to tackle the systemic oppression that has gripped our nation for over 400 years? We believe the answer lies within each of us – education, research, and leadership. With the support of the Humboldt Del-Norte Equity Partnership, the South Bay Union Elementary School District will embark on a two-phase EQUITY plan:
Phase 1: Ongoing staff professional development as well as support with curricular resources, 1:1 coaching, and troubleshooting equity-related events by:
- Establishing shared language
- Normalizing conversations about race, racism, and identity
- Cultivate awareness of how our unconscious biases and our racial identities impact our teaching and our leadership
- Modify practices as appropriate
Phase 2: Creation of Racial Equity Plan
We will put together a coalition of diverse parents, community members, and staff will be developed. In early July, South Bay Union Elementary School District administration will be reaching out to our various boards, councils, associations, and committees to seek volunteers to participate in the creation of our first annual Racial Equity Plan. The Equity Plan will:
- Identify inequities in school policies, procedures, routines, and traditions
- Make changes/modifications as appropriate
- Measure impacts, revise, and repeat
We will also continue our work in closing the opportunity gap – work we began several years ago. Restorative justice and restorative practices will continue to help students feel safe and connected to their campus, classrooms, and classmates. Hiring policies promoting a proportional staff-to-student racial make-up will continue. And ensuring that students are reading at-or-above grade level by the end of the third grade will remain foundational to breaking the cycle of poverty and oppression. Even with those items in place, as school leaders we are fully aware that we still have so much more work to do.
Our drive as collective leaders in the South Bay Union Elementary School District is to close opportunity gaps, break the cycle of poverty, and advocate for social justice. Every student, including our black, indigenous, and other people of color, LBGTQ+, and students with disabilities have the right to feel safe and respected, while also having every opportunity to succeed in college and career. We look forward to listening, learning, and collaborating with each of you.
Heather Becksted, Principal
Jacob Coan, President, School Board
Clay Carver, School Board
Kristina Darby, President, SBTA
Tim Grimmett, Principal
Michelle Livingston, President, Elk River CSEA
Kelly Noga, School Board
Gary Quintrell, School Board
Gary Storts, Superintendent