Dear Members of The Springfield Public Schools Community,
I am writing at this time to address recent events that have entirely overshadowed one of the most severe health pandemics to confront the world.
It seems unfathomable that anything could supplant the COVID-19 concern in our minds during this time.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. On May 25th, 2020, in approximately 9 minutes, everything in the world changed. In the age of technology, cell phones and the ability to capture the moment put us at the scene of a murder. I do not know of any other way to describe what I saw. I addressed the issue last Monday evening during the BOE meeting and would like to expand a bit on my comments during the session.
On a personal level, I have experienced many situations in my life and career that have left an impression on me; that have impacted me far more than anyone would have thought. It is because of those experiences that I know intuitively there are students and families from all segments of our community feeling hurt, angry, and concerned. Within those groups, many don’t know how to deal with their feelings, how to act on those feelings, and how to communicate feelings to others. Additionally, there are those within our society who are fearful, feel threatened, worried, concerned, and rightfully so.
We have worked hard at creating an environment of empathy and acceptance for everyone within our schools. Our students and staff have always worked together, speaking out against prejudice and discrimination. I could go on and on about all the things we do in the Springfield Public Schools to create a more inclusive environment for everyone. But last week, George Floyd fell victim and lost his life to the very ills we work so hard to suppress. There will be many who then question all the work they put in, hoping to make things better.
We must help everyone never to be deterred from speaking out in the name of fair, honest, equal treatment for all people. Violence and hatred, regardless of the source or the rationale, is never the path to solutions. I wish I had an answer to why some of these horrific things are happening. I have no way to explain the response of those in positions of authority, to use the resources available to them to create more anger and hostility rather than more acceptance and inclusiveness. I remember the defense of war crimes and other terrible behaviors, “I was only following orders” dismissed as unacceptable and despicable. Yet, I can only explain the situations and conditions that I see with my own eyes in that way. If that is the case, we are in far worse shape than what my experiences were during the ’60s and ’70s. I genuinely hope we are not and that real heroes will emerge from our political leaders, our local leaders, our police departments, our military, our clergy, and our fellow citizens. We must remember in these darkest times, that the number of good people in all of those places far outnumbers the bad, but that those good people must step up and be heard.
While I cannot condone the behaviors of those who choose violence and destruction as the manner of response to the horrific actions in Minnesota that led to Mr. Floyd’s death, I do understand the feelings of desperation that lead to those reactions. Those feelings are but a small window into the pain felt by people of color. The fear and anxiety felt by the Black/African-American community are contained in the absolute knowledge that it could easily have been them or a member of their family, simply because of the color of their skin. It is not a feeling I would ever want to experience and certainly not one we should tolerate in a humane and caring society. I also lament those who use the pain of others to perpetrate criminal and self-serving behavior during times of crisis; this is not the time to promote domination but rather cooperation.
It is time to exercise our strength as a society and a democracy. We must participate in the rights afforded us by The Constitution of The United States: speak out against injustice, exercise your right to vote, assemble peacefully, and with purpose. We must not let this moment pass without doing something about it. I know how some of you are feeling right now, and it isn’t good. I can only tell you that you are not alone and that there are people who can help you with all your feelings.
We are in a crisis, and we will come through it. We may need help and guidance to do it, but we will do it. Please seek out the advice and help; it will make you feel better about everything troubling you.
I ask that you use the resources of our school system to help you when you are ready for it. Please contact the school principal or guidance counselor, as well as Mrs. Boehm, Director of Student Support Services.
In closing, I wish everyone good health and implore you to take a stand in any way you feel comfortable.
Please stay safe.
Michael A. Davino
Superintendent of Schools