West Fargo Public Schools’ mission statement is “Educating today's learners for tomorrow's world.”
You may have seen our mission on the walls lining our schools, our website, our offices, and in our branding. It is a powerful mission for many reasons.
First, you notice that we say “learners;” that was intentional, as we were not just talking about students. We were talking about the entire community: teachers, support staff, administrators, families and others that support our students. We all need to be learners in order to survive and thrive in our evolving world, which is the second focus of our mission.
Our world is changing rapidly; we knew when we wrote our mission statement that there would be many changes over the course of our students’ lifetimes. Good grades and a comprehensive academic experience are important, but our graduates need more to truly fulfill the mission statement and be successful in our rapidly changing global economy.
Two years ago, we began working with a variety of stakeholders to draft a Profile of a Graduate, which outlines eight dispositions that we want all students to be able to display upon graduation. We knew we would have to be purposeful to provide opportunities for learners to demonstrate these dispositions, and that students would need to be able to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses.
What we did not know was how we were going to implement the dispositions or how we would know if our seniors had mastered them. We asked ourselves:
- What does it look like when learners work together, resolving controversy and conflict through respectful dialogue?
- What does it look like when learners show compassion by demonstrating their understanding of the complexities of the cultures and global issues in order to see viewpoints beyond their own and positively impact the world around them?
- What does it look like when learners persist on a path towards physical and mental wellness despite challenges by defining and developing solutions to existing and future problems?
- What does it look like when learners are actively engaged in their learning and demonstrate perseverance?
If you joined us for graduation either virtually or in-person on May 31, you may recognize these words as the beginning of my address to graduates, the day after riots transpired in downtown Fargo. When I wrote these words the week prior, I was thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic and how our students and staff exhibited the dispositions in our profile of a graduate, and how their compassion and resilience brought us to that beautiful day.
At that time, I did not know what was to come following the senseless brutality and murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I did not know that those who protested peacefully in Fargo, expressing their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, would be hijacked by violence and rioting. I did not know how the answers to those initial questions would be so relevant and critical for the future of our great country.
I have been unsure how to best make a statement regarding recent events because I truly needed to find the right words to speak from my heart. I am deeply troubled by what has transpired in America. Although I am a woman with American Indian heritage, I have many privileges. There is so much I don’t know or understand; there is so much I need to learn.
Like many of you, I am quite confused and uncomfortable, but leaving my comfort zone has forced reflection, which is a good thing. I am not content with how we view and treat each other, across our country and community. As the Superintendent of West Fargo Public Schools, I am obligated to address the problem. I feel the responsibility to provide some solace for those who are struggling emotionally. However, to achieve real and lasting progress, we have to do so together. We are more similar than we are different.
I do not have all the answers, but I know that both blatant and subtle discrimination remains present in our society and know that educational systems are not exempt from that reality. We, as educators, have a moral obligation to dismantle any discriminatory policies, practices, and protocols that have been adopted, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
We will not tolerate racism, intimidation, or violence of any sort. Our leaders will fight to eliminate bigotry and racism, not only within our schools and our city, but within our state, country, and world. We must engage our partners: the black, indigenous, and people of color community; civic and community leaders; business owners; and law enforcement to work together to ensure tolerance and safety are a reality for everyone in our community. We need to develop in our learners, both students and adults alike, the fundamental traits of kindness, respect, and appreciation for all humankind that are just as important as content knowledge.
West Fargo Public Schools ... educating today’s learners for tomorrow’s world. We are all learners; now is the time to listen, to learn and to grow..