Providence Superintendent Chris Maher sent the following to all Providence Public Schools staff Wednesday night.
“Providence Public Schools Community:
While the rhetoric of a divided America dominates the media, in our Providence Public Schools community, let us continue to demonstrate unity and provide support to all of our students and peers, regardless of their background or beliefs. Every lesson we teach is an opportunity to erase ignorance. Every conversation we have with a student is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding. And every interaction with our peers is an opportunity to show solidarity.
Over the course of the past week – via email and social media, in visits to schools, and in conversations on the streets – I have heard from many of you. The overarching theme is one of concern for the emotional and physical well-being of our students, families and staff given the rhetoric of the presidential campaign and disturbing acts of intimidation we have seen in the days following the election. My conversations with students, parents and community members have only reinforced this notion.
I write this to you for two reasons. First, I want to express my gratitude to all of you who have created safe and supportive classroom and school environments for our students to work through their emotions, when as educators some of us still have not been able to work through our own. I know this has not been an easy task.
The Unity Circle at Central High School last Thursday was one example of both student leadership and a caring staff working together to support each other. I had the privilege of attending the event, where students and staff of all races and nationalities held hands in a resounding demonstration of unity. It was a beautiful reminder of the community we have in Providence Public Schools, and I know there were numerous other acts of kindness throughout our schools. These have been great reminders that in times of confusion and fear, the work you do in schools every day is more important than ever.
Secondly, I want to reinforce that hateful behavior and speech will not be tolerated in our schools. Preventing and defending against racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other intolerant behavior is not a partisan issue. Rather, it is at the core of our work as educators. Throughout their academic careers, we teach our children about the values of tolerance and community, qualities in sharp contrast with bigotry and bullying.
We have all chosen to work in schools that serve students from countries throughout the world. This diversity in our district is a tremendous asset. It is a quality to be praised and promoted, because when we surround ourselves with people representing so many different cultures, languages and backgrounds, we are constantly and continuously learning. This diversity enriches both the education we provide to our students and the strength of our community.
As a district, we will continue to identify and disseminate strategies to provide support to our entire community. If you come across resources that have been helpful to you as an educator, please do not hesitate to send them to me so that we can share best practices throughout our schools.
Christopher N. Maher