This spring I have been struck by two compelling examples of school district leadership: one by a white man leading a district attended by mostly black and brown students; the other by a black woman leading a district attended by mostly white students.
A gripping personal perspective on racism in America
Distressed by a recent uptick in racial incidents in her school district, Lesli Myers delivered this powerful TEDxRochester speech. It is highly recommended viewing, well worth 12 minutes of your time.
A letter home quells fear in Elmsford
As fear spread through his community after the President announced his travel ban, Joseph Ricca expressed his unequivocal commitment to his district’s children and their families in a letter excerpted below:
Dear Elmsford UFSD Community Member,
We live in complex and challenging times. Sadly, there are too many valid reasons for the concern and fear spreading throughout our country related to immigration status; travel restrictions; deportation operations and the like…The undercurrent of anxiety and fear seem endless and we know that families are being negatively impacted…
The Elmsford UFSD remains completely committed to our children and their families. Our community members know, and our Board of Education has been firm – there is no place for fear in the Elmsford UFSD. Each day we are trusted with the health and well-being of our most precious community members – we take this responsibility as a solemn promise to educate, nurture and protect our children in all instances, at all times regardless of circumstance…
We have received questions related to federal law enforcement authorities being allowed access to children at schools. Again, let us be clear – no child, will ever – ever – be questioned or detained by a law enforcement official without the proper, court ordered warrant. This simply will not happen. There will not be federal authorities visiting our campuses and there will not be access to our student records. These are not new policies in response to the present political climate – these are our time-tested policies predicated on New York State law.
We know that fear can wash over each of us like a tidal wave; especially when we are discussing our children…However, please remember that while the world at times seems uncertain – you can always be certain that we will protect each and every one of your children as if they were our own.
The courage to lead
For centuries King Henry’s St. Crispin speech (Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3, 2253) has defined the nature of leadership:
…he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
Indeed, leadership requires the “stomach to fight” — fearlessness and courage in the face of threats, whether they result from a federal anti-immigration ban or resurgent racism in a local community.