June 5, 2020
Dear PSD staff and families,
We are living in a time of profound unrest. Protests and riots are provocative reminders of the pain America is suffering in the wake of George Floyd’s death – and those of so many people of color before him. Racism and hate – and what we must do to dismantle them – are at the center of difficult conversations happening throughout our nation. These events reinforce the work we need to do on behalf of all PSD students.
Neither hate nor racism is tolerated in Poudre School District. Both continue to leave scars on our communities, whether spread like wildfire online or spoken within our schools. As we individually wrestle with these discussions in our homes, know I am unwavering in our dedication to solving issues in our communities, microcosms of what’s happening worldwide.
We are your partners in educating the children in your lives, empowering them to learn not just math, reading, writing, and science but also what it means to be human – listening to, sharing ideas with and respecting others. I have a responsibility to make the systems within PSD work to maximize student learning and we can’t do that alone.
I continue to be humbled by the number of allies in PSD and our community who remain committed to growing equity and inclusion and social justice in our schools and beyond. When there have been incidents of hate and discrimination, those with the courage to stand up for what is right give me hope. Together, we must talk about and challenge norms so our students can feel safe, supported and seen where they learn. Conversations with our partners will continue in the 2020-21 school year. We are all in this together.
In times of crisis, already-existing educational inequities are exacerbated and there are disproportionate strains on our marginalized students. America has seen a recent rash of anti-Asian acts, an increase of anti-Semitic events, death in the LGBTQ+ community, struggles in Indigenous communities and, again recently, violence against the Black and African American communities. Nothing is more important than the safety of all PSD students, and our hearts go out to students carrying additional weights compounded by this exceedingly difficult time in human history.
Action steps in PSD
Our work in this area is never done and always imperative.
Words lead to action and we have taken some steps forward in the past couple of years. PSD’s Language, Culture and Equity Department has trained 452 PSD educators so far in culturally proficient teaching practices. We’ve been mindful to purchase learning materials that represent multiple cultures and ethnicities. Our exceptional learners – those learning English as a second language, students with disabilities and more – are supported, and PSD continues to make progress closing growth and achievement gaps. Students, staff, and families together have challenged old systems and built positive school cultures that encourage kindness, compassion, and courage to speak up when something isn’t right. In the 2019-20 school year, PSD also added a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to the district’s improvement plan. This important step aligns this work with teaching and learning outcomes for all students.
Looking to the future, we will:
• Develop an equity framework and mandate initial training for all staff so they are empowered to engage in conversations about race, bias, and diverse perspectives,
• Establish an equity cohort of district-wide representatives trained to facilitate these historically fraught conversations; to guide districtwide equity teaching and learning; implement a racism and bias curriculum; and more. Hearing student voices during this work is critical.
• Create a system for reporting incidents of hate and racism centrally so the district can be more proactive in addressing these issues.
These issues are not unique to PSD or ours alone to solve. We have a responsibility to be a leader in our community and respond to the needs of children because what’s happening out in the greater world effects our students. We have many dedicated partners in the community who have been working with us and will continue to be our partners in this work. I will keep you apprised of our progress.
Pursuant to our goal of educational equity, PSD is committed to being an organization of dignity and belonging for every community. We have learning to do, just like our students, and pledge to continue doing courageous work that’s right for kids and our community.
Sandra Smyser, Ph.D.
Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools
Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools
Executive Director of Operations
Executive Director of Finance
Executive Director of Human Resources
Executive Director of Information Technology
Legal and Policy Counsel
Strategic Initiatives Manager
Executive Director of Communications