In Martin Luther King Jr’s last speech, he boldly challenged Americans to, “Be true to what you said on paper,” referencing our country’s guiding manifesto found in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. In this last proclamation to those who joined with him in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King questioned whether the state of the Union at that time was walking the walk it promised to all Americans upon its origination in 1776.
Like Dr. King, we again find ourselves at a crossroads, and must look at our path to determine where we are heading. The past few months have been life-changing and exceptionally challenging for us all, but perhaps none have experienced the devastating impacts of the global pandemic, economic breakdown, job insecurity and civil unrest more than black communities across our country.
The abhorrent murder of George Floyd, and before him of so many victims of brutality from law enforcement and vigilantism have sparked the tinder box of racial injustice across our country and across the globe. Adding to the embers of this inferno is the severely disproportionate and devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on people of color, including more lethal illness, higher prorata unemployment and declining access to social safety net programs. The near-collapse of organized child care, and the urgent, but under-funded HEROES Act that provided needed but unsustainable short-term funding for vital government-sponsored early childhood education programs further placed vulnerable people of color communities at risk of falling deeper into poverty and hopeless despair. We must take notice of these inequities and take a stand.
I’ve observed with an increasing repulsion the number of over-reaching law enforcement and military responses being mandated in some communities toward peaceful protesters who are speaking against racial inequities and social injustice. Some are attempting to redirect the focus of the civil protests from eradicating racial injustice instead to highlighting illegal disobedience. The right to use your voice to denounce injustice is a core tenet of our great country. With the conviction of my distant cousin, the late President John F. Kennedy, now is the time to ask myself if I am willing to speak my voice, to stand up for my beliefs and take a stand. I will stand.
I may never fully understand what it feels like to live as a person of color in our society. Though I may never fully understand, I am certain that even without full appreciation, now is the time for me to lead my organization to take a stand against racial inequity and injustice. Just as we pulled together all of our resources to tackle the social threat of COVID-19, social justice deserves the same fervor and resolve to root out this noxious weed. I will commit.
As Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin or background or religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” With this truth in mind, I realize that I, and those who have chosen to serve a common mission together in our schools, have placed us squarely on the frontline where our tools and knowledge can make lasting change as we combat this malignant relic of our past, and move forward united in common understanding and mutual respect. I will honor.
I’m a disabled veteran, and honor and respect those in uniform who are working to uphold the rights afforded to all people under our constitution. I’m also a former public servant, having served to reform illegal housing practices that steered black families away from communities where they wished to live. My experiences serve to align my actions and decisions with my mission, vision and guiding principles.
Our core belief shapes our mission:
We believe who children become is as important as what they know.
Our mission guides us:
To forge a path that leads to a brighter future for all children.
Guided by these precepts, we are bound to “Be True to the Paper” and walk our walk. Here’s how we will do just that.
Working for twenty years as a provider of early childhood education, and being raised in a family of servant-leader/educators (my father was career military, my mother a career early childhood teacher), I have come to know well the importance of milestone moments. As parent-educators, our children look to us to help them progress forward. We revel as they acknowledge us for by responding to our voice for the first time (listening), seeing us and returning a smile (recognition), standing on their own (building a foundation), taking a step forward (bold action), speaking their mind (dialogue), learning from reading (access to resources), and finally writing (memorializing understanding). Each of these milestone moments our students experience while journeying through our Primrose Schools pave a pathway for sustained life success.
Here are the milestone moment steps we commit to you as we forge ahead to make lasting change in our schools:
· Listening – to our staff, families and community
o One on one listening project to learn about perceived bias, inequity and without defensiveness to learn, appreciate and improve our school culture and messaging
o Engaging cultural and racial equity consultant to engage, enlighten and help us evolve
o #BeTrue Blackboard – visual message board from you and the community to help guide us in where we can continuously improve our services to support social equity
· Recognition – Acknowledging and eradicating barriers
o Begin process of renaming Primrose School at Stapleton to Primrose School of Denver Central Park
o Scholarship program for children of color – we will grant $10,000/yr in scholarships at each of our Primrose Schools
o Encourage and Assist POC employees with enhanced tuition assistance to further their education, professional development and growth
· Standing on Firm Foundation
o Engaging with civic and community organizations to provide workshops for school leadership, teachers and parents to further social justice education in school and home
o Reviewing our mission, vision, and guiding principles and how we walk the walk to #BeTrue each day
o Advocacy – our COO, Angel Armbrust, serves on the Board for the Early Childhood Education Association council, which serves to influence legislation, funding and directives for high quality child care initiatives in Colorado; I serve as the current Vice Chair of the Primrose Schools’ Advisory Council, directly influencing and advising Primrose Schools’ executive team on how we can best carry out our mission and vision together
· Taking Action
o Engaging with organizations to help serve vulnerable populations and expanding our reach to help provide tools and resources including the Mobile Learning Lab preschool for disadvantaged preschool age children in north Denver metro area
o Enriching our classrooms with diverse racial, cultural and indigenous books, printed resources, toys and manipulatives and visual tools to immerse children and teachers in a rich, non-biased learning environment with additional items such as these
o Expanding cultural awareness and engagement at our schools to foster global citizenship and cultural acceptance through:
§ Level Up Village – global classroom social impact project facilitating collaboration in STEAM projects across cultures worldwide
§ Harmony & Heart™ – exclusive new Primrose character development and music program designed to foster empathy, collaboration, mutual respect, and other crucial social awareness skills in young children to begin Fall 2020
§ Save the Children Child Sponsorships – our monthly sponsorship donation help impoverished children in traditionally minority and blighted areas underserved by high quality early childhood education
§ Global Nomads Group – Explorers will have an opportunity to engage meaningfully with other youth for global understanding and social transformation
§ Google Expeditions for Education – NEW Vibe smart boards and Google Expeditions VR devices purchased to engage children on global quest to introduce students face-to-face with global cultures and eradicate boundaries and influence commonality [Being installed this upcoming week!]
§ ePALS Classroom Exchange – Explorers can safely engage with students around the globe to make meaningful connections with children from different racial and cultural backgrounds
· Speaking Our Promise
o Collaborating with local and national social justice and racial awareness teachers to help us better understand how we can foster non-biased early childhood education at school and at home
o Sponsoring “Social Justice Childhood Education Summit” to offer inclusive workshop for educators and parents in Fall 2020 [please provide your input and ideas for this summit]
· Reading to Reveal and Renew
o Supplying classrooms with books featuring main characters of all different races and backgrounds from The Brown Bookshelf
o Subscribing to resources for teachers and leadership from Teaching For Change
o Equipping our Wellness Coordinator with tools, manipulatives and resources to engage with children and demonstrate empathy, compassion, fairness, kindness, courage and justice through CASEL tools and resources.
· Writing [Memorializing]
o Moving from Corporate-created company plan to collaboratively created Roots to Wings Manifesto to collectively identify what we stand for, how we treat one another, and create a common vision to guide our journey together as we forge ahead
As early educators and in partnership with you, we are in a unique position to explore our opportunity to reduce bias and contribute to racial and social justice through our early educational programming. We know that, together, we can elevate human potential for compassion, and positively impact our youth for long-lasting societal transformation.
Roots to Wings family enterprises, including Primrose Schools of Thornton, Primrose School of Denver Central Park [in transition from “Stapleton”] and Primrose School of Denver North stand in opposition to racism, bigotry and hatred toward all people, and will work together with our community of caregiver/parents to educate, enlighten and evolve to ensure that long-marginalized people of color are valued as having equal rights and opportunities to pursue their highest potential. We know that through education, we can work to decolonize wrong thinking and enable teachers, families and the people of the future to appreciate and value all human beings.
This is just the beginning of the conversation and the start of our response. There is much work to do. I commit to you my dedication to taking a stand, and a step forward in the march to forge a pathway that leads to a brighter future for all children, for all of humanity. I look forward to hearing from you on what ideas you have, what lessons you bring, and what steps you are committed to taking to support this important journey toward Being True to Our Paper. I hope you will join me.
I stand with you; I stand for you; I stand to step forward to make lasting change for good.
We Equip for Well-Being®
Roots to Wings Family Entterprises
Primrose School of Thornton
Primrose School at Stapleton [transitioning to Denver Central Park]
Primrose School of Denver North (Opening Soon!)
The opinions I share within this communication are my own, and are not necessarily reflective of the steps and actions that all Primrose Schools may choose to take nationwide; however, I know with absolute certainty that all Primrose Schools summarily reject racial and social injustice and stand with black communities, families and children to renounce racism and forge a pathway to lead to a brighter future for all children.