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Dr. A. Katrise Perera, superintendent of the Gresham-Barlow School District, says educators have a moral obligation to dismantle discriminatory policies, practices and protocols.

DR. A. KATRISE PERERAIt has been a challenging spring. The rising and devastating impact of COVID-19 has affected all of us. This past week I was emotionally horrified by the images of senseless brutality coming out of Minneapolis. This weekend I was discouraged by the civil unrest of violent rioters pretending to be protesters.

Like you, I am afraid that many may not understand the response of the protesters, and may confuse the rioters' actions with the ultimate goals of the protesters. I am afraid that there are many attending the protest with a goal being to only disrupt and cause havoc by looting and destructive behavior.

Like you, I am frustrated with the complicity shown by those charged with protecting and serving but rather — who stood idle while another human had every breath squeezed out of him. I am frustrated with the silence of many in positions of leadership.

Like you, I am in pain. I am in pain from a frequent thought that Ahmaud Arbery (Georgia), Breonna Taylor (Kentucky), George Floyd (Minnesota) could have been one of my brothers, my sister, a nephew, an uncle, an aunt, my husband, one of my daughters, any other relative, or even me.

I grew up in the deep South and I have lost relatives to similar senseless situations, which I am reminded of with each tragic incident.

Yet, as the superintendent of the Gresham-Barlow School District, I feel the pressure to "stay strong and have all the answers." I feel the pressure to take action and to speak out. I feel obligated to help others understand the impact of such events and to bring comfort to those in need of understanding.

The reality is, I am not sure of what I can do that will immediately bring comfort to those in pain. I do not know what actions would be best for each individual. I do not have all the answers, but I am willing to help find them and to seek resources that will assist.

What I do know is that it will take more than my words and more than just my actions. What I know is that it will take more than just the answers that I may have or the resources that I can provide. What I know is that there are abject systems of discrimination that exist in every public entity of society.

What I know is that as a K-12 educational system, we are not immune. Plainly put, K12 educators have a moral obligation to dismantle those discriminatory policies, practices and protocols within our own system.

Where should we start?

As a school district, know that we will continue to review the policies that govern our district and statewide legislation that causes undue-burdens upon historically underserved populations. We will intentionally listen to learn — instead of falling back on our own fragility.

As educators, we can commit to being culturally responsive and encourage others to do the same. It is important to learn. It is important to learn daily from one another so that we can continuously improve and better serve each student so they may thrive.

What I believe is that we are better together and I know, as a learning community, WE CAN DO BETTER for each of our Gresham-Barlow School District students.

Thank you for all you do for the students of the Gresham-Barlow School District. Partner with us in committing to doing even more for our students. They deserve nothing less.

Dr. A. Katrise Perera is superintendent of the Gresham-Barlow School District. She original wrote this message as a letter to families with students enrolled in the district.


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