The following letter from Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore was emailed to the West Hartford Public Schools community on Monday, June 1, 2020, stating a renewed commitment to actively working to eliminate racism.
Dear West Hartford Community,
It is impossible for us to watch the news over the past few days and wonder not just about the future of the great American experiment, but to see and feel a hopelessness in the promise that things will get better. When Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” in 1968, he was paraphrasing the words of abolitionist Theodore Parker, who preached on the topic of the moral universe as early as the late 1840s. President Obama so loves the quote that he had it woven into a rug in his oval office in 2009. 1968: 119 years after 1849, and 2009, 41 more years after 1968. And today, in June of 2020, it is fair to question just how long, exactly, is this arc? I would posit, as others have, that the arc does not bend of its own weight – we need to pull on that arc, to take it upon our backs and move it to justice.
When we see the brutal killing of George Floyd, we add it to a mental catalogue of injustice that through video, we have actually witnessed over not just the past days, but weeks, and years. And when we see our nation burning, it is incumbent on our institutions, such as the West Hartford Public Schools, to speak not just to our community, but to our children, and make one simple promise: that we can do better, and we will do better, and we will not wait to take action.
West Hartford Public Schools has worked hard under the leadership of Roszena Haskins, our Director of Diversity Advancement, to see our institution through the lens of equity, and to listen to the voices of those who demand more. I confess that I have, prior to this week, been pleased with our incremental gains while I have been superintendent. Our graduation rate for all has gone up. Our achievement gap has shrunk. Every year, the diversity of our staff has grown. But now I am, frankly, embarrassed by my own satisfaction. My patience is not a virtue. The time is now for me, and all of us, to commit to our children that we will be better.
I sent a message to all staff of West Hartford Public Schools this weekend where I laid out my own promise that from today forward we will be actively anti-racism in our thoughts, our actions, and our professional development, which for the past couple of years has been focused on cultural competency, and our own understanding. I challenged all staff to examine our grades by race, discipline by race, and to look deeply into our own hearts and reflect on the kind of world we want for our children, and what we can do to get there.
I am a superintendent who is a white male, and while I can listen to those who have lived as a person of color in America, it is the height of hubris for me to pretend that I can ever truly understand that experience. In the coming days, you will be receiving follow up communication from our principals, in collaboration with our Equity and Diversity Committee, about how we are supporting students and with resources to help you in communicating with your own children about these difficult topics.
I opened this year’s first all-staff meeting speaking of Nelson Mandela, as my son had just returned from a summer in South Africa, and I got to live vicariously through his experiences. I will finish this message with a quote of his: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Our children cannot live and thrive in a world that feels hopeless. I know that if our community, and our schools pull on that arc, together, we can help to satisfy those who hunger and thirst for justice, and that we can make those words that our children say every morning ring true – with liberty and justice for ALL.