Over the past week, our city has faced events that push us all to the limits of our comfort and each of us must determine how we will lead in times of great challenge and injustice.
As I have reflected on the week and on the actions and reactions of our community, it is clear that people are hurting. These events have brought to light decades of unmet needs and will require more than conversations to truly understand and solve them.
I am fortunate enough to spend time with our wonderful, talented young people in schools and in our community. I believe in our students. I believe in our young people. And more than ever, I know that they hold the solutions for moving forward as a city.
The words of one of our students reinforce for me the optimism, hope and expectations of our young men and women in Milwaukee. Kalan Haywood II is a senior at King International High School and the president of the Milwaukee Common Council Youth Council. In a message on social media, Kalan spoke to his peers and to us:
I also issue a special challenge to Milwaukee’s youth: I ask you to think before you act. I encourage you to think of what outcome you want to see and ask yourself if the action you are about to partake in will yield that result. Trust me, as your peer I understand that screaming voice that yells from deep inside your gut that tells you that no one is listening.
But I also know that if we lead by example, everyone will take notice. We have to be the change we want to see.
It is our responsibility as educators to create a space where our young people can be heard and can be part of real decision-making that impacts their lives. We must build relationships and seek to understand their needs and life experiences.
To that end, we recently met with school leaders to discuss our role and ways to address the concerns of our community. We are preparing staff to provide Culturally Responsive Practices and Social-Emotional Learning in every classroom. We are committed to equity, access and inclusion for every student and staff member.
We have also reached out to youth and community leaders to come together to listen to each other as we move forward to secure peace and justice. This work will be uncomfortable, but it is not impossible. We are strong, resilient and committed to our city and our young people.
Together we are part of the solution. I ask our local media to put as much effort into telling the stories of the rebuilding, healing and work to solve issues that will take place over the next few weeks, as it did to the unrest of last weekend.
The issues we face are not new globally, nationally or in the history of our city. This is a critical time for us that will shape the future of our community for decades. Most importantly, this work is necessary to ensure that equity and access are a reality in Milwaukee for the young people we are honored to serve today and for generations to come.
Let us join in this effort of recovery and healing together, working with our young people to be the change that must emerge from our community.
Darienne B. Driver, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools