The Globe’ s Jaclyn Reiss reports on a memo Newton’s superintendent of schools David Fleishman sent to faculty following last Thursday’s forum that “was intended to be a community discussion to ensure Newton is a welcoming and inclusive place for all turned into a display of disrespectful and uncivil behavior.”
UPDATE: Here is the full memo:
As some of you are aware from media reports, the citywide forum on April 7th took a very unpleasant turn. What was intended to be a community discussion to ensure Newton is a welcoming and inclusive place for all turned into a display of disrespectful and uncivil behavior. Some in the audience were particularly insensitive toward a Newton parent who courageously shared a story of racism faced by her son.
Since Thursday night, I have received a number of kind words of support given that some of the vitriol expressed was directed at me. (It largely stems from the fact that I reject the accusation that our high school history teachers inject anti-Semitic curriculum into their classes.)
Despite the tone and attacks, I left the meeting feeling optimistic. Why? The wonderful display of thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion shown by Newton students and faculty was compelling. Our students openly shared their experiences and spoke passionately about their efforts to address all types of discrimination. Their thoughtful reflections demonstrated how to engage in a dialogue on sensitive topics like race, anti-Semitism and homophobia, in a respectful, honest, and humane manner.
I also had the chance to hear two of our teachers, Jodie Cohen (North) and Bob Parlin (South) speak passionately about their commitment to diversity and the important efforts underway to ensure our high schools are welcoming, supportive and inclusive. You would have been proud to hear Jodie and Bob share the values so deeply held by our NPS community.
The tone of public discourse at both the national and local levels has been discouraging of late, but it highlights the importance of the ongoing work we are doing in our schools. It begins with our youngest children and continues through graduation. At each step of the way, our students benefit from your modeling, coaching, caring and compassion.
As I wrote in a recent Op Ed piece, our school system has a responsibility to prepare our students to thrive in an increasingly diverse world. Thursday night reminded us that it takes an entire community to ensure our students emerge from our schools as kind, respectful, and engaged citizens.