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Education

CMS Superintendent Urges Staff To Dismantle Systems Of Racism

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WFAE
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Superintendent Earnest Winston

Superintendent Earnest Winston sent messages to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees, students and the community Sunday urging them to work against "bias, bigotry and racism."

His messages came as Charlotte and cities across America erupted in protest and occasional violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd was killed by a police officer who was videotaped pressing Floyd's neck into the ground for nine minutes.

Winston, who started the job in August, is the district's second African American superintendent. He leads a district that is 36% black, 27% white, 27% Hispanic and 7% Asian. He and other black public officials have received racist messages that have been publicly aired.

To students, Winston acknowledged that "senseless killings" add to the tumult created by the coronavirus pandemic, which closed schools in mid-March. He assured students that CMS adults are available to listen to concerns, even if they're no longer seeing students in person.

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Message to CMS stuents.

A longer public message offers thoughts and prayers to "the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and to the countless other families of those who have been the victims of bigoted hatred." It says CMS will join others trying to eliminate bigotry and keep working on cultural competency.

"We know that educating children is one of the most impactful ways to change a county, a nation and a world," Winston wrote. "We can do that only by speaking truth in love and by disrupting the systems and mindsets that would actively create hatred or passively allow bias."

His message to about 19,000 CMS employees is the most detailed (see text below), saying that the district's work is to "fight actively against and resist racism." He calls on staff to "dismantle the systems that create inequitable outcomes for some children, and create new learning environments that recognize that the old ways have failed far too many." 

Winston's Letter To Employees

Team CMS,

The last few weeks have been hard—this week has been particularly tough. To see the brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and to witness the weaponization of race against Christian Cooper have stirred emotions of outrage, fear, frustration, anger and exhaustion. When I think about those killings against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has taken so many lives – African-American lives at a disproportionally higher rate – it is overwhelming.

 

These same emotions are playing out in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and across the nation. Violence and destruction are not the answer. They are only distractions. These distractions keep us from focusing on the root cause of the issue. Hatred. Bias. Bigotry. Racism.

 

What I know for sure is that it is one thing to not be a racist, but another to be someone who fights actively against and resists racism. This is our work. The reality is we must dismantle the systems that create inequitable outcomes for some children, and create new learning environments that recognize that the old ways have failed far too many. Until we do this and also join with other community partners to enact lasting change, we will continue to witness the scenes that are playing out in the streets across this county and around the nation.

 

I encourage each of you to check in on your colleagues. Give space and time to reconcile what you are seeing against your own lived experience.

 

This pandemic has created an opportunity for us to create an education experience for children that is significantly better than the dated public education system in which our parents and their parents were educated. We can and must emerge from this period of uncertainty with the resolve to embrace new approaches that enable us to live the mission of educational equality. It is an honor, a point of pride, that we shoulder the responsibility of educating ALL who walk through our doors. By reflecting on our own mindsets and committing ourselves to each do our part in mending the gaps that have for far too long left many students behind, we will make history and contribute perhaps more than any other profession to bringing an end to the cycles of injustice and unrest unfolding around us.

Earnest