The first half of 2020 was memorable because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and the racial unrest after an unarmed Black man died while in police custody last month in Minneapolis.
As we turn the calendar from June to July marking the halfway point of the year, we want to hear from community leaders and residents about how the COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s death impacted their lives and how those news events will shape the second half of 2020.
To kick off the story that will appear in the July 5 Journal-News we collected information from Middletown City School District Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr., who wrote a letter to the 6,300 students in the district regarding race relations and was a guest on a recent education-based podcast.
Styles, the district’s first Black leader, hasn’t shied away from the subject of race. He said he frequently talks to his parents about their experiences growing up and he uses some of those stories to communicate with students.
“Our responsibility is to rise up to the occasion and be the voice,” he said during a recent Podcast.
For years, he said, educators were told to “be quiet” so they wouldn’t offend anyone.
“I disagree with that,” he said during the interview with Andrea Gribble, host of Mastering Social Media for Schools Podcast. “We need to stand up and activate our voice.”
When asked about his students, Styles said: “They are my hope. They present the hope.”
Styles said it’s important to “stay transparent, stay honest” with the community as the district discusses ways to return safely to school this fall. He said town hall meetings will be scheduled and livestreamed to attract the largest audience possible.
Earlier this month, Styles wrote on the district’s web site about three recent “professional experiences.”
In the afternoon of June 10, Styles said he read information from a private school pertaining to what it called Enrollment Management.
He wrote that one particular bullet stood out: “Making a concerted effort to target appropriate students in public school student candidate pool.”
Later that same day, he participated in a webinar facilitated by Howard Fields about Educational Asphyxiation - Addressing Racism Within Schools. Styles said Fields spoke about the importance of “understanding and dismantling anti-racism/bias.”
The next morning, he read the story about Sen. Steve Huffman who said “colored’ people” get COVID-19 from not washing their hands as much.
“What will the next 24 hours bring?” Styles wrote. “My hope is accountability for those who are not committed to equity for our students. Action represents commitment. My hope is that people revisit their values, and work on treating people with respect. My hope, as a Black man, is to not experience pain as a result of reading mailers or articles with discriminatory or race related comments. I’ll sit next to my colleagues, parents, and students to strengthen our unity in pursuit of equity for all.”
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