From Mr. Todd Harrison, Bigelow Principal, Jun 12, 2020 –
Dear Bigelow Families,
It’s been another earth-shaking week. I am reminded of the comment by historian Todd Gitlin who commented that during the rapid events of 1968, it felt like we were living in a kaleidoscope.
I want to give you an update on the emerging steps and plans that Newton, NPS, and Bigelow are taking to address with urgency the racism in society, our community, and our schools that we’ve all been reminded of over the past several weeks.
I met with my fellow middle school principals on Tuesday, and we worked on plans to integrate anti-racist professional development and anti-bias education for students into our plans for next year. On Wednesday, I met with the Bigelow boys and girls of color affinity groups to hear their thoughts and feelings. On Wednesday night, the Newton parents group, FORJ (Families Organizing for Racial Justice), held a large and successful zoom meeting attended by over 250 parents, principals, teachers, (and even a Bigelow student) to discuss racism in the Newton Public Schools. Last night, I met with the Bigelow chapter of FORJ and we talked more about pro-active steps that we can take as a school community.
I’ve heard a lot of powerful comments and feedback at these meetings, and there’s tons of passion and commitment to act now. I know that many of you are having similar heart-to-heart conversations with family and friends. This work is crucial as we continue to expand both our own understandings of racism and our own skills to communicate about it, in order to be able to lead this work with our students promptly and successfully.
As part of our big picture for this summer, in which there will be a variety of professional development opportunities for teachers to help prepare for the many challenges we face next fall, the middle schools plan to convene a group of teachers and counselors that will build out and build up our advisory program and develop a more robust active anti-racism curriculum as part of it. We anticipate that all students will need more social-emotional support when they return in September, and our advisory program will need to play an enlarged role with more sessions and more time in response.
This, of course, does not negate the need to do so much more in so many other areas, but I want you to know about this initial step. Things are moving, and I am sure they’ll be more.
The range of emotions is wide as we finish this unique school year. History is happening daily. I look forward to seeing you and your children–at a safe social distance–next week during our curbside pick-up days, and sharing a grand finale online graduation ceremony with all of you next Thursday, June 18, 7-8:30pm. (Link and password are forthcoming next week.) Please give your children a “Big-hello” for me. We send them our collective embrace.