Students at Mission High School led a protest and march against police brutality on June 3, 2020. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)

Celebrating the accomplishments of students in a difficult year

Well, we’ve made it to the end of the school year. When we started the year last fall, none of us could have imagined that this is how we are beginning our summer.

Getting to this day has been hard and taken an incredible amount of effort. Parents have had to care for children at all hours of the day while also tending to many other responsibilities. Teachers have to learn how to educate from a distance, recreating years of carefully developed lesson plans within a matter of weeks. Students have to be in charge of their learning in a whole new way.

While this moment is one that is cause for celebration, it also comes at a time of great despair. Across the country, we are mourning the senseless killing of George Floyd and so many others before him.

Four hundred years of systemic oppression and underlying racism reminds us of the urgency of making changes to our institution and other institutions and addressing the conditions that allowed this senseless killing and others to happen.

Fifty years ago, my father had “the talk” with me about what to do when stopped by a police officer. Thirty years later, I had the same talk with my sons. Now I have a 2-year-old grandson, and we should all be fighting this injustice so that my son-in-law won’t have to have the talk with my grandson Jeno.

As Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a basketball icon and one of my heroes, said, “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – even if you’re choking on it – until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.”

As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. Our young people are rallying in the streets to shine a bright light to make sure society sees it, and I could not be more proud of them.

I am also proud to be part of an organization that continues to seek ways to stand with those most vulnerable in our community.

I know I speak for all of our SFUSD team when I say that I work in public education because I believe how we raise our children is critical to how we create a more just world.

Looking at the myriad of faces of all of the people rallying around the world, I believe change for the better is not only necessary but possible.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Franicsco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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