ON RACIAL INJUSTICE: A Letter From WSSDA’s President and Executive Director

This letter was emailed today to WSSDA members and school district superintendents. While the letter is not addressed to the general public, its statement and calls to action are intended for all to consider:

Dear School Directors and School District Superintendents,

Working together, we have shared triumphs and tears, navigated complex issues, and supported one another while elevating our voice to become one of the largest levers in K-12. We have done this through trust, understanding, and a collective belief that what we do matters. Along this journey, we hope that we have earned your trust because it is time to say something about what is unfolding before our eyes.

Racism and bigotry are unacceptable. Period. 

Recent events have brought into greater focus that we, as a nation, have fundamentally failed to address the long-term problems of systemic racial injustice and discriminatory practices and prejudices that those in positions of power perpetuate.  

People all across our nation are outraged by the killing of George Floyd and similar racial injustices before that. They are also outraged by the continued disparities between the experiences of those with privilege and those without. We, too, are outraged. Our students, families, and communities must no longer endure these injustices.  

As leaders, we spend significant amounts of effort to expand our voice, build our influence, and solidify our credibility. For what? For the children who we are trusted to protect and provide for. It is time to use our influence to address injustice. It is incumbent on all of us to push for justice and to hold ourselves and our institutions of power accountable.  

To our colleagues of color, we see you, and we stand with you.

As your president and executive director, we were honored to witness the moment last November when you, the elected School Directors of Washington state, overwhelmingly approved WSSDA’s permanent position on equity which reads:  

Equity is foundational to the work of WSSDA. Educational equity can only exist when a student’s level of opportunity and achievement cannot be predicted based on race, characteristics, or circumstances. Therefore, we must identify and eliminate any discriminatory practices and prejudices within our state’s public education system.

This built upon your 2017 permanent position that reads:

WSSDA believes that in order to disrupt the systems which perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps, local school boards should develop and adopt a Racial Equity Policy which directs school districts to put in place strategies and engagement practice where diverse voices and perspectives are included.

You, our members, took bold action to show the world that discriminatory practices and prejudices are unacceptable.  You, the elected officials that govern public education, want better for our students.  And you, the people who were chosen by your communities to lead, know that what affects our communities affects our campuses.  

WSSDA is here to support you, and we are committed to operationalizing your positions on equity. Our own WSSDA staff continues to engage in this work to root out our own biases, commit to being an anti-racist organization, and assist you in this vital work.  

We implore you to think about the following questions as they pertain to your schools, your community, and our nation.  

  • What is your personal responsibility for change?  
  • What can you do to learn more and teach others about anti-racism in our society?  
  • How can you be a better ally to those experiencing prejudice and discrimination?  

These conversations are necessary and will require action outside of our comfort zones. But until we are willing to look at the role we play in maintaining the status quo, we will continue to see our students, their families, and their communities suffer.

It is an honor to serve you and stand beside you.

Brenda Rogers
WSSDA President
Tim Garchow
WSSDA Executive Director