June 19, 2020

Statement on Equity & Inclusion

Holland Public Schools is "committed to being part of the solution - to listening, learning, and doing better."

June 19, 2020, has been declared as Michigan’s Juneteenth date of recognition by Governor Whitmer. Juneteenth is a holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Blacks in the United States. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. In honor of this historical event, we find it timely to reflect and solidify our position on racism, equity, inclusion, and our commitment to further advance our work in Holland Public Schools.

It is important to us that we take this opportunity to reflect on recent events that speak to the core values of who we are as a school system. Our commitment as a district to the notion of education as a public good obliges us to speak up as our country experiences national pain and upheaval.

The racial traumas of American history endure, and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, and countless others are but the latest in a series of violence, oppression, and discrimination toward the Black community that must stop. Silence about race reinforces racism and so we have to speak. We need to talk about white supremacy and systemic racism. We need to serve and lead as trustees of a school district that prepares students for an ever-changing world. We need to recognize that our actions or any inaction can further contribute to institutionalized racism. We need to accept responsibility for our work toward a better system. We stand with leaders who take decisive action toward equitable outcomes and encourage others to do the same. 

This past year, and even now, we watch the outcry for justice echo around the world and we heard it in our own community. There is much work to be done and the path forward will not be easy. But we must prevail. We must act now; thoughtfully, decisively, and together.  We add our voice in solidarity with the Black community, communities of color, and other marginalized communities demanding to be treated with the full liberty the Constitution declares and the Dignity that is innate in all of humanity. 

Over the past few weeks, we have been listening. To the students and families of HPS: We hear you; We see you; We stand with you; We want to make things better.  The events across our country and images/comments in the news have been impacting our staff, students, and families in real ways. We are committed to being part of the solution-to listening, learning, and doing better. 

To those of us who are white, including the majority of our School Board, we have the privilege of not experiencing racism. When we acknowledge this, we are taking a step forward. While we have made strides in our professional development, curriculum, and  instructional and behavioral practices as a district, we recognize the need to reprioritize our equity and inclusion efforts. This means more resources, more measurements of progress, more conversations about race, and even more openness to understanding the experiences of our students, families, and staff as they navigate life under this reality. 

Leading a system-wide effort requires that we ensure that cultural responsiveness permeates all levels of the district, from teaching and learning to buses and buildings, to all levels of professional development and community engagement. We need a non-stop commitment to ensure that students leave our schools fully prepared to succeed in a society that is ever more racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse; so that our graduates are educated, informed and able to learn from our shared history. 

Recognizing this, we take action.  We will work to:

live up to our values and our stated principles of our strategic plan consistent with our mission/vision;

ensure all students, especially our most vulnerable, experience the sense of belonging, agency, and liberty they deserve and all should expect;

fight for policies that end systemic oppression by elevating and amplifying voices in our own district to address policies and practices that do not adhere to our core values;

continue collaboration with thought leaders and educators of color and devote our energies to recovery and healing through restorative justice;

enhance our professional staff development with thought leaders that have assisted other institutions to dismantle the things that have impacted the opportunity and achievement gaps in our community;

continue our practices of mediation and restorative practices when harm is caused;

engage student voice through our student leadership teams;

encourage active participation of staff, students, parents, and community partners in the HPS Equity Alliance for study, guidance, and recommendations to the Board of Education;

address the opportunity/achievement gap at HPS through comprehensive review of academic, behavioral, physical, and social-emotional access and growth;

effectively study and implement curriculum that is diverse and culturally sensitive; and

hold ourselves accountable to this work.

The perpetual traumas of inequality and discrimination manifest as more than the acts themselves, taking a significant toll on the mental health and well-being of all those impacted. Now is the time for all educational leaders to intensify our commitment to address inequities, and work to dismantle systemic racism that has failed our student body, our community and our country for generations.  

Together, we can be better, and together we will build an even stronger and more resilient Holland Public School community.

We respectfully and humbly ask our local community to join us in these efforts. We can not do this without your support. 

HPS Board of Education