June Message: Cultural Proficiency
It seems to me that as I get to be of a certain age the years fly by faster and faster. Here it is the end of yet another school year and it has been a terrific year of growth for the children we have the honor to serve. Now summer is quickly approaching, and eighth-grade promotion ceremonies are only days away! I trust we have prepared them well for their high school experience.
I hesitate to share that I came from an age, time, and place of prejudice and social injustice growing up in the heartland of this country in the 1950s and 60s. There was a great deal of segregation, mistreatment, and misunderstanding of people different from ourselves. As a country we have come a long way; however, I fear the journey toward inclusion is not complete and, in fact, as a country, we may have regressed somewhat.
To respond, this year we have strengthened our resolve to become a more culturally proficient learning community. At the District level, our work included training and education for teachers, administrators, board members, staff, and families. We contracted with Dr. Trudy Arriaga, a specialist in the field, to increase our awareness, understanding, and practices that embrace and celebrate the diversity of our students and families we serve. Teachers are learning more about their young students and families and children are benefitting as a result. This is such good work and we will continue with this as our focus.
In January, the Board of Education approved a resolution to become a sanctuary school district to honor and protect the privacy of all students and families we serve regardless of country of origin. And, our District is supporting the My Name, My Identity program, a joint project of the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Association for Bilingual Education. Through the program, teachers pledged to learn the correct pronunciation of each child’s name — a challenge in a district where more than 45 languages are spoken, but essential for building respectful relationships with the children we serve — relationships that are foundational to educational success. And as our graduates will soon learn, that foundation is key; on it, they will build bright futures!
We work to prepare our students with rich educational experiences, but at the end of the day, we know that the most important thing we can do for our children is to help them understand their value as individuals. When they respect their own uniqueness and that of others, they develop the confidence to share their special gifts with the world, and we all benefit as a result. It comes down to creating a safe space in which children of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds feel welcomed, affirmed, understood, and respected. There are countless benefits to becoming a culturally proficient learning community and paramount to this we believe that every student gains a stronger education when differences are respected and embraced.
I wish you a peaceful, restful and safe summer.
Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools