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Sunnyside Opening Day 2020
steveh's picture
By Steven Holmes
JULY 25, 2018 / MODIFIED AUG 18, 2020 02:19 PM

July 29, 2020

Dear Sunnyside Learning Community,

A lot has happened since we closed our doors for traditional schooling on March 23rd. Over the last few months we have seen our Nation grow more divided on the public health impact of this pandemic, which has placed school reopening at the center of a political debate. Although starting school remotely is not ideal, scientific evidence along with recent guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pima County Health Department suggests that the high level of community transmission supports the need for schools to remain closed for in-person instruction. It is most certain that we will stay in a remote learning situation minimally until after Labor Day. As educators, we are accustomed to using data to inform our decisions and will continue to do so in making decisions for in-person learning moving forward. 

However, the COVID-19 virus is not the only issue of debate our Nation is contending with. The killing of George Floyd has exposed long-standing racial inequities in every aspect of American life and has forced a deep reckoning across society. From mass protests to intimate conversations with family and friends, conversations about race and equity are part of a national dialogue. For this reason, schools must find their place in the conversation and look at ways to improve the systems that perpetuate inequalities for children. 

I would like for us to reflect on the following questions throughout the year as we have further discussion on equity:

  • What are systemic patterns or practices in our schools or departments that foster inequalities and limit students’ future opportunities for success?
  • What biases (unconscious or conscious) do we hold about the community and students we serve that may impact our approach to student learning?
  • For those of us who don’t interact with students, how can we examine some of our own internal biases to create a work environment that is more inclusive of all?

The conversation on equity is not new to the Sunnyside Learning Community. Equity is the foundation of our Graduate Profile and is central to the formative assessment process we have been implementing for the past few years. Drawing meaning to our work in the context of equity must be more intentional as we dive deeper into our own personal improvement of practice regardless of the position we hold in the organization. 

On a personal level, much of my family conversation about race this summer took place while watching the movie version of the Broadway musical, Hamilton. The significance of diversity in the cast (led by mostly Black and Latino actors) and music (hip hop and R&B), and historical backdrop provided for rich discussions on multiculturalism and institutional issues of race that I know were critical and important for my family to engage in given the events that were happening across the globe. 

As we embark on this year of many unknowns, I ask that we look at the opportunities that lie ahead for the students we serve. My hope is that we seek not to return to normal- which implies going back to the status quo - but that we learn from this experience and challenge our system to provide better and more equitable educational opportunities for the children in our community.

As Hamilton would say, let’s “not throw away our shot”! Let’s seize the moment to revolutionize our students’ experiences so that they are College, Career, and Community Ready.

In solidarity with you,


Steve Holmes