A Commitment To Change Thoughts and messages from Chicago Public School Leaders

Our city is struggling.

As our country, city, and communities continue to grapple with the legacy and currency of racism in America, The Chicago Public Education Fund team spent some time reflecting on our role in Chicago and the broader education community.

We asked the city's principals and assistant principals to share their reflections, photos and videos with us. We wanted to capture their leadership in real time, to learn from primary sources about the supports needed in schools, and to create a platform for their work.

This is what we heard.

We heard educators put students first.

"While I know we must move forward, it would be senseless not to acknowledge that you have all experienced the injustices of systemic inequity. These experiences have pushed our community, city, country, and world beyond its breaking point. What we are seeing is a manifestation of the pain we have been forced to live with for generation after generation.

Considering this, the King Academy Team will not pretend as if this is not happening. Instead, we will support you through this by serving as your hope creators, peace providers, and love sharers."

Principal Jasmine Thurmond, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice

We heard words of compassion and empathy.

Principal Stacy Stewart, Belmont-Cragin Elementary School

We heard calls for activism ...

"It's during these difficult and challenging times that we need each other the most. It is time for all of us to reflect and spring up to action. As educators, I know the passion and the desire for a better tomorrow is within all of us.

We are service oriented, and we have the power to make the changes we want to see happen."

Principal Wilma David, Sandoval Elementary School

... and understanding ...

"Our community has been hit hard, first by the COVID-19 pandemic and now by violent acts occurring across our country, including Chicago. Peaceful protests for the unacceptable deaths of innocent people, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, have turned violent and have destroyed businesses across the city, including in Brighton Park.

Racism cannot be tolerated. To achieve our mission of having our students make a difference in Brighton Park and Beyond we must listen to each other and seek to understand. We must discuss difficult topics to support students in understanding the present times and the history of our country. Students must be encouraged to act and use their voices."

Principal Debra Fritz-Fanning, Shields Middle School

... and change.

We are overcome with sadness as we watch our nation and our city grapple with tragedy and crisis. As we struggle, we recognize the need for justice and for healing. Though we are sad and afraid, we must return to our moral purpose.

We must have courage and hope. We must continue to be a source of light for those we teach. We must challenge our students to work for justice and healing in our communities, our city, and our country.

They are our future, and we teach so that they might create a world where their children will never experience the heartbreak we have witnessed in the last week.

Principal Luis Tellez, Hernandez Middle School

We heard messages of hope and honesty.

It is the work of education to build a consciousness for change, and it is the work of education to foster voice and to have that hard conversation, even when it makes us uncomfortable and when we are not sure how to do it and, for those of us who are, even when we are white. We are duty-bound to face the harm of racism, and we must commit to change.

Administrative Team, Prosser Career Academy

"It is crucial at this moment more than any other to promote harmony, not hate. We should respect our differences and appreciate our similarities. We must teach our children a culture of celebrating diversity and not division. We must all truly believe that human life matters regardless of sex, race, religion or color."

Principal Okab Hassan, Peck Elementary School

"We cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. Our children are watching. Our children are learning. What they learn from us during this poignant moment in history will shape their lives and choices forever."

Principal Jennifer Dixon, Palmer Elementary School

And we heard promises to students of a better tomorrow.

"I am done with saying there are inequities in the world and our children need to learn early on of this unfairness. I was told this as a young child, and I said the same thing to my children. I was wrong. It was not right then and it is not right now.

We have so much work to be done. Our children, our future, deserve better. They deserve to breathe. Freedom to breathe. They deserve to see justice by its true form. That means, when schools open in the fall we need to consider how we will make justice visible."

Chief Elizabeth Alvarez, Network 8

Students at Armstrong Elementary show their work to Principal Otis Dunson.

We know that the fight against systemic racism and injustice has been — and continues to be — long and hard.

We remain committed to listening to and supporting Chicago's public school leaders by elevating their voices.

Change starts with us.