As protesters gathered in Nashville earlier this summer after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, leaders in our network gathered to discuss how to best support staff members and families for the days and weeks ahead and what role LEAD can play to drive the conversation around civil rights, injustice and ending systemic racism.
It began with a memo from CEO Dwayne Tucker (attached below) to all staff in which he shared his perspective as a Black man growing up in North Nashville and what this unrest means to him.
With the memo, Dwayne invited all staff members to gather for a Town Hall meeting on Zoom, which was followed by two additional meetings for staff members to further the discussion around how they can do their part to end systemic racism in society. The meetings are only the beginning and the conversations are ongoing.
As common themes and action steps are identified over the next few weeks, LEAD will address them at LEAD University in July when all staff members return to begin planning for the 2020-2021 school year. The guiding principle is for staff members to kick-off the school year with a clear understanding of how our work with our Ethos and initiatives like “Courageous Conversations” provide the foundation of trust across our organization when discussing these matters. In turn, we can better understand and support the needs of our students and families.
From Mr. Dwayne’s memo earlier this month: “Let me begin by saying, I, Dwayne Tucker, a Black man, am outraged and disgusted. I denounce racism and the unjust treatment of any human being. As the CEO of LEAD Public Schools, I have chosen to represent you in leadership not only because of my belief in the mission of LEAD Public Schools, but also because I personally represent a percentage of our communities that are outraged right now … I believe it is on all of us to do the following:
- We must admit that the recent tragedy that happened to George Floyd in Minnesota is all too frequent of an occurrence in America.
- We must be vulnerable and have more open, honest, and deeper courageous conversations with one another about systemic racism, discrimination, and disparities amongst our communities.
- Fear is oftentimes at the heart of inaction. We as an organization have to reflect honestly, re-visit our LEAD Ethos, and decide how we can replace fear with faith in how we exemplify these behaviors consistently.
At this time it is particularly important that we remember what one of the highest purposes of an education is: to develop empathy for others in our world. We do this:
- by teaching our students critical thinking and analytical skills and how to listen to others’ points of view with open minds and hearts;
- by seeking to understand before reacting negatively or violently to others’ opinions;
- by questioning, listening and seeing others as valuable and worthy members of the community, no matter how different they may be from us; and
- by modeling these qualities in ourselves. By doing that, we help develop them in our students.
- by engaging our students and families in civic engagement and reminding them of the importance of voting to ensure that our elected officials are accountable to their constituents and their communities to address systematic racism and all forms of discrimination — actions we can model as adults in our network in support of our communities.
I can think of no higher calling of an educator than to work alongside one’s students as they grow into empathic adults ready to participate fully in civic responsibilities of citizenship.
If we can commit to the items listed above, we not only can create a more inclusive and culturally sensitive environment for leaders, but we can also begin to model servant leadership and be a source of comfort, support, and understanding for our LEAD students and families.”