A Call for Renewed Solidarity and Unity

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A Call for Renewed Solidarity and Unity

 The protests and social unrest across the country and around the world may bring feelings of fear or anger among our students and staff.  First and foremost, let me be clear that DCS strongly condemns any form of discrimination or racial injustice.  I can assure our community that our Board of Education remains firmly committed to maintaining safe and orderly learning environments where each student and staff can focus and be excited about learning.  Discrimination, harassment and/or bullying have not, and will not, be tolerated.  In fact, over the past decade, we have intensified our efforts to identify and eliminate any barriers that impede a student’s ability or opportunity to learn.  While we have made great strides in Duplin County Schools, we still have work to do. 

 The brutal killing of Mr. George Floyd was gut wrenching.  Our hearts go out to his family, his friends and all who are working through so many emotions after witnessing his horrific death. This and other senseless acts of violence have sparked an outcry from young people around the world.  Our job as educators is to educate, nurture and prepare our students to be productive and successful citizens.  In order to accomplish this, we must give them a voice by respectfully embracing their desires and needs.  We must hear the cries of our children from different backgrounds, races, and religions who have peacefully joined hands to influence change. This generation has reawakened condemnation of human injustices such as racism, mistreatment, oppression, bias, and stereotyping.  Wisdom out of the mouths of babes, I would say. We should listen, learn and seek to understand their perspectives, so that past mistakes are not repeated.  We should accept their challenge by not carrying on preconceived ideas or generational beliefs without proper examination, analysis, and objective scrutiny. Young people are saying it is okay to use new information to reexamine what we thought to be true and change our perspectives on issues.  While policies can change to help ensure equity, the most important change comes from the heart.  It starts with individual commitments, then one family at a time modeling UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that has no boundaries. 

 In my humble opinion, DCS has made significant improvements over the years to eliminate inequities within our subgroups of students.  Of course, every district and region has its own unique challenges and approaches. We have created opportunities for career and college promise and have built strong community partnerships with our faith-based communities, businesses, and local law enforcement to ensure equal treatment and opportunity for all students. Within the past few years, a committee of stakeholders was formed to develop a comprehensive Equity Plan to address the needs of all students, employees, and families.  An administrative position, Special Advisor for Educational Equity, was created to promote the District’s commitment to a climate of equality.  We launched STEAMA (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math and Agriculture) to empower all students and teachers through creative freedom and engagement.  This innovative approach has provided personalized career pathways for all students by connecting curriculum and communities.  DCS has also implemented the state-wide "Say Something" program which allows anonymous reporting of negative behaviors and actions.  Global awareness initiatives and Integrated Academic & Behavior Systems (IABS) are also very active and effective programs in our school system.

In addition, since joining DCS over 10 years ago, the Board of Education has charged me each year with the goal of hiring and retaining highly qualified educators who closely represent our student population.  Through strategic staffing, we continually assign personnel commensurate with their areas of expertise and matched with individual school needs, while ensuring equal representation in our four districts.  Every staff member and student has a space in our school system, and we are all accountable to upholding Duplin County Schools' values with a spirit of unity. 

Duplin County’s diverse and faith-led community steered me to Duplin County Schools.  I believe wholeheartedly that every student and staff member, whom I am entrusted to serve, matters. If one family member hurts, we ALL hurt. Let’s empathize with one another, even if we do not truly understand each other’s pain. While the world seems to be in complete chaos and a state of unrest, we need one another now more than ever!  We are “Duplin Strong” for a reason! Let’s get stronger by valuing, respecting and loving one another even more.   For the good of our young people and each other, let’s commit to treat each other – regardless of race, religion, disability, sex, etc. – without judgment or bias.  Let’s come together for ALL the children.  Together, we can make great things happen!

 As Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”  Let’s model acceptance, love and unity for our children especially during these unprecedented times. 

God bless you with peace and love.

 

Your humble servant,

Austin Obasohan, Superintendent