Above: video clip from HDESD staff address on June 3, 2020. For full message to staff and community, please see post below.

A message from Paul Andrews
Superintendent, HDESD

As an organization dedicated to putting children first, taking care of each other and embracing innovation, our work around equity at the High Desert Education Service District remains critical on every level and in every fiber of who we are. Our calling as educators is to ensure that each and every student we serve has access to an excellent and equitable education. A fundamental reality, however, is that for every child to receive that equitable education and ultimately to succeed, they must feel safe, welcome, loved and included within the walls of their school and surrounding community.

The murder of another innocent black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month is yet another painful reminder that we are not doing enough to interrupt the historic and systemic racism that dominates our nation. And then there are the other innocent black men and women — including Breonna Taylor in March of this year — whose lives have been taken from them because of the color of their skin. These are not just policing issues, they are flaws in our education system, in our economic system, in our housing system, in every system that keeps the status quo.

On behalf of the children and families who look to us for partnership and support, we stand in solidarity with our communities of color. This is a time for us to show courage and to raise our voices against injustice and stand up for the children and families we serve. This is also a time for me as a white man, as an educator, as an advocate for children with special needs, to reflect on my own “why” and my calling. Data consistently show that the education system in America is not working for children of color. And when it comes to education, we are the system. Data consistently show that our children of color are not receiving the same support, services and opportunities as our white children. Young black boys in our schools are being over-identified for special education — especially in the category of emotional disturbance — and disproportionately disciplined, from preschool all the way through high school. As I reflect on my career, I recognize that I have not done enough to interrupt these injustices and that is my personal connection to the equity work we have been doing and will continue to do at HDESD.

For the past two years, we have been actively engaged in an equity journey which is an individual and collective commitment to fighting systemic racism by examining and redesigning structures that reinforce inequity and harm to our students, families and educators of color. Last year, our board passed an equity policy that has become our road map in this work. As we travel along with miles of road to cover still, we are committed to and passionate about change.

The world needs us, as educators, to have an unwavering stance when it comes to equity and making our educational system better for kids and families. Our children need us to right the wrongs in this system that we are stewards of.

Our sense of urgency and opportunity around equity work is further fueled by the momentum taking place throughout our nation and the entire world. I’m feeling more hopeful and heartened than I have in the past as I see and hear more white voices speaking up as allies to our communities of color. I am humbled by our employees who are initiating difficult conversations and supporting local efforts to speak out against racism. And, I’ve watched our teams build and grow programs centered in equity for many years.

We will continue to engage our HDESD team in equity training with partners such as the Oregon Center for Educational Equity. We will continue to hold ourselves accountable for bringing our equity policy to life and using it as a guide for every decision we make.  We will continue to build upon decisions and policies to diversify our organization and expand our knowledge, awareness and action in support of our staff, students and families of color. Together, we will continue to drive change in support of equity as we put kids first and take care of each other. We will continue to weave the work we have started into broader work that fights injustice until we have finally dismantled the systemic racism that exists in all aspects of our lives.