Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District News Article

Statement From Superintendent Kirby on Deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd

May 28, 2020 
“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

Dear Cleveland Heights-University Heights Community,

The past 2 months have been extraordinarily challenging for all of us. For me, this has been personally challenging as I have lost 4 people who I know personally to COVID-19. If you have lost a friend or a loved one, I offer you my sincerest condolences.

This once-in-a-century pandemic has forced us to change how we live and learn. The way that our community has worked together to adjust to this new reality is inspirational and shows the grit and character of our district.

Unfortunately, while we have had to combat COVID-19, our country is still combating the ugly legacy of racism and discrimination. The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are disturbing reminders of this legacy. My heart goes out to their families for this senseless loss. I have to admit that I have not been able to watch footage of these incidents yet due to how deeply they disturb my soul. I am also extremely concerned about the impact these incidents have on our students who are trying to make sense of a world where these tragedies continue to happen even in a global pandemic.

Recent events remind us of how important our own policies, practices and beliefs are in our schools and the wider community. I am extremely proud to serve a district that was the first in Cuyahoga County to adopt an equity policy. During my first year, I have learned a lot about the successes and opportunities for growth in our implementation of the policy. Teachers are seeking ways to practically apply the equity policy in their classrooms, parents are providing valuable feedback on the implementation of the equity policy, and Board members are holding me accountable for the goals of our equity policy. This level of stakeholder engagement is unique, inspiring, and gives me hope for the future of the Cleveland Heights - University Heights district as we strive to become a national model for educational equity. We have a lot of work to do, but the commitment is strong.

Whenever we experience tragedies like the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, we often ask ourselves - what can I do? How do I process this information and help the children in my life process this information? One place to start this work is in a place that is close to your home and your experience. Learning about the equity work that we continue to pursue in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights district is key. 

On May 19, the District’s Equity Task Force shared an update on our equity work during a Board work session. You can watch the presentation here (or view the slidedeck). Equity is also one of the core themes that is guiding the work of the strategic planning committee. I ask that you provide feedback on this work by completing our strategic planning survey. Other resources that can be helpful to you and your family are available here. The Equity Task Force is also developing a web page of equity resources for all of our stakeholders as we continue in this work that will be updated regularly.

Finally, as we go into the summer, I urge you to connect with each other, stay informed on key issues and reflect on what the time period we are experiencing is teaching us. We are in a truly symbiotic moment that shows that we are all connected to each other. When one person hurts, we all hurt. When one person commits an act of vulnerable, unsolicited kindness, we all benefit. Perhaps this is one of the lessons of the pandemic - the power of our interconnectedness.

My best,  
Superintendent Liz Kirby

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