“Our character is not defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight.” – Robert Beatty, “Serafina and the Black Cloak,” 2015.
At its first meeting of the new year, January 9, 2023, the Board of Directors of the Clover Park School District (CPSD) unanimously approved the motion “that a presentation be made to the board on the matter of equipping our children with the ability to navigate issues surrounding race and racism.”
What happens when a young child, prepared for her search for the truth, “dares to enter the very forest and down the dark paths that she has been taught to fear”?
The answer to that question is what prompted Beatty to write the Serafina and Willa novels, stories of heroic young girls he composed for his three daughters to inspire them, in turn, to live, in real life, their own stories of heroism.
“Serafina and the Black Cloak,” became a #1 New York Times best seller, was on the list for more than 60 weeks, and won the prestigious 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize.
It was the first of what would be the Serafina series, and the books are being taught in over a thousand classrooms nationwide.
What dangers may lurk down the road and into the places the CPSD School Board has chosen to travel?
That same day as the CPSD Board’s decision, the Everett Herald quoted Deborah Rumbaugh, Superintendent of the Stanwood-Camano School District as saying “we will always be fine-tuning what that (anti-racism) means for the students and the adults in our system. I don’t think we would ever say, ‘We’ve got it. That work is done.'”
Rumbaugh was referring to the need for “deeper anti-racism work,” the ‘catalyst’ for which was the November 4, 2022, football game between Stanwood and Lakes High School where investigations found racism was ‘likely’, according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune.
Ron Banner, CPSD Superintendent, wrote recently “This unfortunate event serves as a reminder that all of us have an important role in creating an environment that is inclusive and respectful for all.”
TheCPSD Board agrees.
More important than racial slurs; more important than assessing blame and consequences, the racial incidents on the field and in locker rooms have generated needed discussions in the classrooms and now in the board room.
As a community member said during the public comment portion of the meeting this past Monday night, “it will take strong leadership to change course and convince others to follow,” on this “journey to a more tolerant and understanding community.”
A school board’s ever-vigilant pursuit “to gain a deeper understanding of issues; to provide the public opportunity to discuss issues, and to exhibit cultural, racial, and ethnic understanding and sensitivity,” is all characteristic of what is meant by good governance as referenced in the Washington State School Directors’ Association publication entitled “Washington School Board Standards.”
Certainly, equipping our children with the ability to navigate issues surrounding race and racism is in keeping with those standards.
Per Procedure 4400-P1 of the Public Disclosure Commission, and like regulations, I am authoring this article as an elected official (Board Director, CPSD) but I am doing so on my own behalf, and not on behalf of the district.