For the past few weeks, I have been focused on putting together a meaningful graduation experience for our Class of 2020 within the governor’s Phase One parameters. On Wednesday and Thursday, we celebrated with our families as each graduate made their way across the stage and teachers cheered enthusiastically for each student as they stepped out of our school building and into their futures. It was a ceremony marked by visible signs of respect and love.
In stark contrast to the joy being experienced on our campus, just a couple blocks away people were grieving, hurting, and protesting against the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of officers sworn to protect his community; against the long history of police brutality against people of color, especially Black Americans; and against suffering through other systemic effects of racism. Changing this reality and the racism and inequalities that help it persist requires action, including by our school community. As the Director, I accept full responsibility for leading this effort.
Our school’s namesake, Maggie L. Walker, was a pioneer for the rights and dignity of the Black community. She went beyond words and created opportunities for Black Richmonders when their opportunities were severely limited due to racism and racist policies. At this critical moment in our community’s and our nation’s history, we have the responsibility to engage in Maggie Walker’s legacy of leadership.
In the strategic plan that we will present to the Regional School Board this month, the first goal is to “Foster a sense of belonging for all.” It is first because it is the foundation for building a strong community in which every student is valued and supported. As we develop an action plan to achieve this goal, we commit to taking meaningful actions that would make Maggie L. Walker proud, ones that ensure every student, no matter race or ethnicity, especially those who have been marginalized in the past, can be recognized as a unique and gifted individual; feels warmly welcomed and safe in our environment to pursue their dreams; that they are celebrated along the way as they reach their potential; and that we align our practices and policies with our commitment to contribute to ending racism.
There will be opportunities for engagement from all of our stakeholders to be a part of this process.
I hope that you will join me on this journey.
Robert C. Lowerre, Ph.D.
Director, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies