Community Conversations

Good evening, VBCPS families–

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I'd like to take a moment to address some of the events affecting us locally, nationally and globally.

Imagine viewing the world from a young person's perspective right now. Not only is the human race suffering the ravages of a health crisis, but we're now also witnessing the pain and anger over generations of racism and hatred laid bare in the streets of our cities and neighborhoods. It is impossible to shake the images of prejudice, injustice and violence that populate social media feeds and flash across our screens. It is deeply distressing for so many of us, but I worry principally for our students—and especially for our Black students—because we know our youngest citizens do not yet have the ability to put these sounds and photos and words into any kind of context.

The events happening in our country are painful, and they are igniting a call to action. I do not pretend to have a full comprehension of what our Black families are feeling right now, but please know we stand with you in this moment. And to that end, I know we can and must do more regarding equity and anti-racism work. We can show up every day to this work with empathy. We can be introspective and reflective and open to understanding our blind spots. We can and must continue to condemn racism and injustice and work to disrupt it where it exists. And as the leader of the largest school division in Hampton Roads, I can embolden our educators and community members to do the same. We must champion equity in our every decision and action. We can and must be models of respect and kindness for our students, and we can and must provide a meaningful and inclusive educational experience for every single child in our schools. It is my job to make sure we have the tools to do so.

Most pressingly, we have to help our children make sense of what is happening right now and give them hope for their future. We have put together a list of resources that can help with engaging them in conversations about race and conflict. Our school librarians have also compiled a list of age-appropriate books that may also assist with working through and answering questions about difficult issues.

Yet clearly, that's not enough. While, yes, we are tasked with educating the children of Virginia Beach, I am also resolved to more action within our community. So I am asking myself some hard questions right now. Can this be the moment in our history that we effect real change? How do we alleviate this pain and suffering caused by the pervasive and systemic racism that has always been and remains a part of our nation’s history? We cannot just leave it to the next generations to fix. We cannot doom our children to this history that keeps repeating and repeating itself.

With this in mind, our VBCPS Equity Council, made up of community members and stakeholders from across the division, will continue to meet and develop effective ways to get the entire community involved in this work and to come up with targeted strategies and actions to support our families. To get this conversation moving, you are invited to a virtual community conversation, How to Talk About Equity, Race and Recent Events, next Tuesday, June 9, at 5 p.m., featuring a panel of leaders in equity work that will be moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee. I hope you will join us in this conversation.

These past months have been so very trying and tiring. Not only have you had to become teachers overnight, but you've been expected to be experts in everything from math to history to conflict resolution. In the face of all of this, we’ve learned the most important thing we can do for our children is to make sure they know they are loved and cared for. That’s more important now than ever. We must listen to them when they are frightened, confused or in need of our direction and advice.

Together, with love, with compassion and empathy and respect for one another, I know we can make our community stronger and our world a better and more hopeful place for our children. As we move ahead, I ask you to take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Aaron Spence, Ed.D.