I am deeply troubled and saddened by the recent events in our country. It is intolerable to see the hurt that racism, hatred, and discrimination inflicts upon people of color. My condolences go out to the friends and family of George Floyd for their tragic and unnecessary loss. My heart is going through a variety of emotions - disappointment, frustration, and fear to name a few. Disappointment because I think our society has a lot to offer and I try to believe that we are better than this. Frustration because the response by some communities has been violent. Most of all I am afraid, terrified, that my own children could become victims of the bigotry and injustice that has been allowed to linger in our nation for far too long. There is obviously much more work to be done to eliminate racism and it starts with each one of us.
As an educator, it is my duty to break down barriers, not to build walls for my students. I want our families to know that we are working constantly to build a sense of community in our schools where everyone is loved, appreciated, and accepted. But as I said, there is still more work to be done.
Indiana Area School District has partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium to learn more about how we can improve our parent outreach as well as closely examine our views on equity. This includes reviewing each and every one of our procedures, protocols, and processes to make sure they truly address any systemic inequities. My goal over the next year is to create a District Equity Plan that is embedded in every aspect of our organization.
As many of you know, we have begun to implement a laser-like focus on the social-emotional learning needs of our students over the past two years, which teaches students to be more emotionally resilient, confident, and empathetic. Our district leadership motto is “Hope and Opportunity,” an affirmation of what we want to provide each and every one of our students. Our school counselors, school psychologists, teachers, administrators, school nurses, and other staff are dedicated to offering support, and to ensuring that students of all cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives are provided a warm and welcoming environment filled with love, kindness, and understanding.
We believe that education is the key to ending the proliferation of racist and discriminatory practices in our nation. We have designed a multi-tiered system of support designed to ensure that every child, regardless of race, culture, or creed has unlimited chances to reach their greatest potential. I am proud of the community we serve and the culture we have created in so many ways, but there is more work to be done.
I am proud of the students who helped organize the peaceful protest recently held in Indiana and the leadership displayed by the Borough Police and the Sheriff’s office by walking and supporting the students in the cause for change. Their united actions demonstrate that this message is not an anti-police message or intended to diminish the importance of the lives of others. It is an anti-hate message calling the nation’s attention to a serious problem. Social inequity and injustice still exist in this country, and that is unacceptable. I was proud that our community came together to exercise their rights to assemble and speak out for what they believe. I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I support all police officers who are dedicated to protecting and serving all people. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for those who put their lives on the line to keep all people safe. I believe in the potential of our country, but we are better together. We need to unite to ensure we exemplify the ideals in which we are supposed to be principled. If we truly believe that all people are created equal, and that all are entitled to the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we all need to truly commit to equitable practices in all facets of society, each and every day, so people of color have all the hope and opportunity this country has to offer. I want this for all of our students. I want this for my son.
I am beyond blessed to have a beautiful family that accepts me despite all my flaws and mistakes. I want society to accept my son as he accepts me and loves me - unconditionally. My son, who is only 8 years old and an African American, is constantly asking me questions about the current conditions our society is facing, and I am struggling to find the right words to explain how evil and hateful some can be toward other people, especially people of color.
Unfortunately, this conversation is one that is necessary, and one that will be ongoing over the next several years of his life. What do I want him to know? I want my son to know that I love him unconditionally. I want my son to know that I am hopeful that there are more good people in this world than bad. People who will come to love my son as I do; people who see his race and ethnicity as a blessing and not a curse. I am hopeful my son will grow up in a world where there are people who desperately want to know what makes him smile, what his hobbies are. That he is witty, smart, and articulate. That he likes to draw, read, and build/engineer robots. I want him to find someone who will love him as much as I do when he gets married. I hope that this individual’s family will accept and love him unconditionally, but I am afraid they may not. I want him to know that it breaks my heart to think that people might be frightened of him, or even despise him for no other reason than the color of his skin. I want him to know it saddens me that many may see his “color” before they see his character. I want him to know that Daddy is working hard to get better every day to live up to my responsibilities as a father, an educator, and as part of humankind. I want my son and all of my students to know that they are loved and cared for. That they are all entitled to hope and opportunity. That they are uniquely special and all have something truly great to offer this world. I want Alex to know that Daddy is surrounded by good people in this world to help in this cause, this fight, and I want him to know that I will do more. That we will do more. Until the work is done.
Yours, in resolute sincerity,
Michael J. Vuckovich
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.