One of the best parts of my role as your Superintendent is visiting our schools to see our students and educators working together.
Every school has its own character, and each school’s students, staff and families offer me different and valuable perspectives.
As I write this, protests over racism, murder and mistrust echo across our country, and I look for hope. I see hope in our Ralph Bunche Center preschool.
The campus in Canton, through its Head Start, Bright from the Start and special education programs, brings together students of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, abilities and disabilities. You cannot help but be moved by seeing how these little ones pay such little attention to their physical differences as they learn and play together. They see the differences, and don’t shy from letting you know they see them, but they move past them with ease to focus on the commonalities. You like blocks? Me, too. You don’t like broccoli? Me neither.
The campus is named for the late Ralph Bunche, who earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to bring peace to the Middle East, who helped establish the United Nations, and who served as a U.S. ambassador. Mr. Bunche, who passed away in 1971, was African American.
The school was renamed in his honor in 1961, shedding its past name of Cherokee County Training School at the request of the senior class. The senior class was entirely African American, as was every child served there in grades 1-12, for, before desegregation, this was our community’s school for anyone who wasn’t white.
Every time I visit the preschool, I think about this history and how far we have come as a community. I also think about how much further we have to go.
It’s our responsibility, as your public school district, to not only serve every child and care about each child’s success, safety and well-being, but also to recognize and correct inequalities and inequity.
When we brought our community together last year to write a new long-term strategic plan for our school district, equity and access became the first pillar. When we began this school year, we brought all of our administrators – from Principals to curriculum directors, from technology supervisors to police department leaders -- together to learn more about how ensuring student equity and access to resources and programs means all students can be better equipped to learn and lead, both today and tomorrow.
Equity is not the same as equality, our speaker emphasized, and we must look for inequities and right them. You may have seen the illustration of a man and two children looking over a fence to watch a baseball game. Each stands on one crate – which is equal. The man can see very well over the fence; the older child can see; but the smaller child cannot see at all. When the man gives his crate to the smaller child, all three can see – which is equity.
We are continuing to spread this message and put it into action. We are training our educators on equity, access, and cultural awareness. We are designing character education programs centered around kindness, tolerance and thoughtfulness. We are including redemptive practices in our code of conduct for our students. We are stepping up recruiting efforts to increase diversity in our workforce.
A place of historic segregation in our community is today one of our greatest examples of equity and the power of togetherness.
Together we are stronger. Together we are better. Together we can provide a brighter future for all children.
Thank you for everything,
Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools
P.S. The photo is with a couple of my friends from Ralph Bunche Center - thanks for the hug!