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Reflections from the Superintendent

Spring 2021

This is a special time of year for many of the staff, students, and families of our community. For our Jewish families, the first night of Passover begins after sundown on Saturday, March 27th, and continues until the evening of April 4th. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Ancient Egypt. Many Jewish people around the world will have a “Seder” meal, which is a ritual service and ceremonial dinner for the first night or first two nights of Passover.

Next week is also special to many Christians, beginning with Friday, April 2nd, which is known as “Good Friday”. This is a day that Christians believe marks the death of Jesus, followed by his resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday, which will be celebrated this year on April 4th. Eastern Orthodox Christians use a different calendar, and they will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday, May 2nd.

Although services and celebrations may look different this year because of the ongoing health emergency our world is experiencing, and we hope families will continue to be cautious, we send our best wishes to all of you who celebrate these special holidays.

While so much is in flux and all of us are anxious to return to the schedule and business of old, I know my family and I will take time to be together with and reflect on the good and bad of the past year. I am particularly nostalgic about together time as my senior son makes his decision about college this weekend. We won't always be able to count on him here for holidays and weekend time, so I am soaking up every minute. He was 3 just yesterday, (a word to younger parents). I used to wish they would be "easier" when they were younger, and I was so tired! Now I can't find enough time with them! 

The manner in which we cherish our children makes us send our love and support to Gio Taboh and his family.

Reflecting on the events at the Capitol in January, I can see that our road is fraught with challenges. Racial tensions continue to rise and violence against the Asian-American Pacific Islander community, punctuated with violence in the City of Atlanta. I send support to our Asian-American families and students who have, no doubt, been shaken by the mass shootings in Atlanta.

The events in Atlanta, where multiple Asian-American people were killed, are horrific. This situation comes in the wake of a spike in violence against Asian-American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) — where people have been attacked while simply going about their daily lives. Much of this rise in crimes against the AAPI community is linked to the rhetoric around the COVID pandemic, in which Asian-Americans are being "blamed" for its inception, and it is reprehensible.

We need to state that Natick Public Schools are a safe space for our students. Additionally, there are anti-bullying laws against harassment.

As a district, we want to stand up and voice outrage for these acts of violence against the AAPI community and, as an inclusive community, we cannot tolerate when any member of our population is (or feels) threatened in this way. We stand with the AAPI community.


Fall 2020

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

It was a charged week around the Presidential election, but a good one for teaching and learning about our democracy. The election is a tense one — this is not lost on any US Citizen. We are a public school and a learning organization. We have an obligation to uphold to create civic dialogue in our classes (see our dispositions below).Our students will look to us in the coming days and weeks to help them heal, celebrate—but through it all, still be Natick Neighbors—living in relationship and in collaboration.As a community, we take very seriously our responsibility and legal obligation to educate students about the history and current events in the United States and about the importance of civic engagement to our democracy. In a country of nearly 330 million people — with diverse backgrounds, religions, and political views — there will never be agreement on all issues. Our educational system is designed not to tell students what to think about issues, but rather, how to gather and examine information, think critically, engage with their peers, and draw informed conclusions.

At the same time, we know that many of us have strong opinions and deeply held beliefs of our own. When political issues arise in schools — particularly when students ask thoughtful questions — it can be difficult to set aside our individual perspectives and respond without bias. Some argue that even in school settings, students and adults are protected under the First Amendment to freedom of speech. However, that provision of the Constitution does not give individuals the right to voice any opinion, in any setting. The circumstances and context do matter, and in the case of schools, we have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that our viewpoints do not create division or disruption that would be harmful to students or staff. This year in particular, with so many members of our community feeling the anxiety and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be more vigilant than ever about creating school cultures rooted in empathy and support rather than conflict and opposition.

As a leader, I recognize that in this political environment, the stakes are high, and many of us are deeply passionate about the issues at hand. In a community composed of people with different viewpoints, we will undoubtedly encounter neighbors and colleagues whose opinions may not only be different from ours, but may even seem offensive, prejudicial, and out of step with the values of our school community. As objectionable as these viewpoints may be, they do not negate our responsibility to maintain safe, civil learning environments focused on students’ academic growth and social-emotional well-being. We hope you will join us, as our children's first teachers, in this mission.Help them be the civil global citizens our Profile of a Graduate expects and help them stay in relationship with each other in our amazing and, at the core, loving, community.

I'm grateful for the family and community partnerships with us in support of our students!


Approaching the Holiday Season

I have talked to many parents this week who are struggling to understand how to make meaning and joy during this weird holiday season.

As a working parent of two, and a once-perfectionist-Celebrity Chef-wannabe, I hope that like me, you will practice the art of giving yourself grace and permission to construct joy and memories differently this holiday season. So much is upon your shoulders this year as parents and adults. You have taken on educator roles in new ways as parents and that may mean a reframing of the holidays and your capacity. Children need structure and love; dinner together and reading together remain the highest leverage activities parents can do with their children. I loved my grandmother because she could make eating peanut butter and saltines seem like dinner at the Ritz. "Special" and "magical" is a state of mind. The treats, decorations, outings and other will still be possible in other years. 

We all have a shot to make memories of our deep family connections this year, perhaps less distracted by the glitz and pressure of typical holidays. Perhaps it will be the greatest gift we never knew we needed.

Thinking about all of our families celebrating Kwanzaa, Solstice, Christmas, Chanukah or Festivus, I hope they have warm memories and fun time together. For those simply resting and taking a break from our COVID regimented living, enjoy your freedom. Happy New Year to all!
 
One of our reading teachers, Susan Kennedy, has a blog that I enjoy. Like the small bites of her expertly made cookies that we used to enjoy from time to time, her blog is a sweet bit of quiet reflection from a literary woman whose love of her students is like a warm hug. 
 
She writes about holding memories close and this idea resonates with me. Last year in my graduation speech, I told of my 5-year-old son telling me back in the day that when we had a good day or a good moment, we could put it in our "heart drive" (meaning like a personal body hard drive!) Cute right? Well Sue has a heart drive, too, and I invite you to read it. She reminds us that it's what's in the "heart drive" that's getting us through this unusual year. Don't forget that this is the stuff that resilience is made of--picking the best and using it to overcome the rest--modeling this for our children during this season when we may not be able to leverage our typical holiday "stuff" may allow you to replenish the heart drive. Like Sue, like me, you will turn over these warm caught moments in time of need and savor them. I challenge you to find them and share them.  Reflections from a Coach.
 
The Kumar family took these ideas seriously when I asked last week and I share their brilliant, warm "heart drive moment." Bravo and Thanks! 
 
What a gift we all are to each other in this community. Keep the joy coming. Keep the care coming. This is Natick, after all. We do care, joy, creativity and community like no other town.
 
From the Kumars
Dear Anna,
In your last email newsletter you asked for snippets of how we all have been doing during pandemic. We are doing pretty well, but it has taken active efforts. From daily exercise, outside time, and family activities we are doing our bit. In fact, we have a family advent of activities currently running along with a daily workout challenge.
Also wanted to share with you a quick little video our family made this past Sunday where Bela (8th grader KMS wrote) and Jia (10th grader NHS) sang/edited. It’s an amateur video shot in few hours but encapsulates us: https://youtu.be/PNufmcMMcCk
Lastly, as we say goodbye to 2020, we also say farewell to the old Kennedy Middle School. Please take a moment to read a wonderful letter to KMS written by Joyce McGregor, KMS Administrative Assistant.
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