Equity is the Key to High-Performing Schools
By Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. Superintendent of Schools
This year marks 65 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibited segregation in public schools. This milestone will certainly be acknowledged in public education throughout the country, alongside the progress we have made as a nation.
We have come a long way since May 17, 1954, when the court stripped away the legitimacy of laws that segregated people by race, and instead made equal opportunity in education the law of the land. Since that date, Alexandria has had an African American School Board Chair, an African American Mayor and an African American superintendent who are all products of the Alexandria City Public Schools. In ACPS, our community of staff, students and their families is more diverse than it has ever been. Not a day that goes by that I do not celebrate the fact that I am a product of this great school division and that I now have the privilege to serve as the superintendent. None of these things could have happened in 1954.
It is easy to glamorize the story of Alexandria’s desegregation. While we like to think of those days in the vein of Remember the Titans, the real story is far darker and more complex. It is one of student-led protests, race riots, police beatings and the murder of a student for which the murderer served only six months behind bars. It is also the story of an Old Guard of Alexandrians, with connections to Harry T. Byrd and others who supported change but also feared the upheaval it would bring. Ultimately T.C. Williams High School was a solution to the crisis. Named after an ardent segregationist, it came to stand as a symbol of a racially unified community, and helped defuse some of the tensions even if it was not a racially unified community in reality.
“Equity is not about taking from one group to give to another. It is about meeting every child where they are, not necessarily where we want them to be.”
Even though our city and nation have made significant progress in regard to race relations, there is no doubt in my mind that we still have a long way to go to ensure equity in our public schools. This is one of the areas we will focus on as a school division as we mark the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and beyond. We have already been engaged in some courageous conversations that are needed to ensure every student in our school division succeeds, and we know it will take great effort of our entire community to see that come to fruition. Equity is more than race relations; it crosses all areas of focus in ACPS including facilities, academic opportunities, learning environment, funding allocations, human capital, and resources.
Equity is not about taking from one group to give to another. It is about meeting every child where they are, not necessarily where we want them to be. Equity means that we serve all students at the highest levels regardless of special needs, gifted services, low socioeconomic status, language barriers, or challenging obstacles in life.
We know that the equity discussion can be uncomfortable, but we also know that if we push through the discomfort, there is a better future beyond it for every one of our students. It is not our right to be comfortable. Discomfort affords us the opportunity to grow as individuals and to push our thinking. I encourage all of you to be a part of this courageous conversation and be willing to be open-minded about how we serve all students in ACPS as we embark on establishing the next strategic plan in late spring 2019.
I invite you to join me as a champion for each and every one of our students in this important Brown v. Board of Education anniversary year. Just as it took a unified voice to overcome school segregation in 1954, it will take a unified voice emboldened with Titan pride to take us to the next level in 2019 and beyond in ACPS.