Dear Clayton Community:
The past months have been challenging for all of us. The pandemic has forced us to change how we live and learn. However, as I expected, we came together and showed our strength as a community. We remained positive and strong in a time of uncertainty.
Now just as we are trying to re-open and establish a new normal, our country is in turmoil over the senseless killing of George Floyd. Unfortunately, this was not the first time our television screens have broadcast the unjustified murder of a black man at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us. These scenes keep playing out over and over again in our society. It is obvious to many we are still combating the legacy of racism and discrimination.
I have spent the last several days reflecting and listening to a generation of young people screaming for change. People of all backgrounds have taken to the streets demanding justice. We are a nation born from rebellion that declared we have “unalienable rights” as human beings. Protests and demonstrations are part of our history. I have hope for the future. I believe that this new generation of Americans will bring the change that is needed. I also believe that real change can be brought about peacefully. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela all fought against injustice and changed the world through peaceful protest and civil disobedience.
These events have also made me grateful to work with the Clayton Police Department and especially our School Resource Officers. Our SRO’s do more than just protect our schools. They have become an important part of our school family. They have volunteered as coaches, delivered food to families during the pandemic, and even gave students “curbside shout outs.” They understand that they must be part of the community they serve.
I am also proud to lead such a diverse district. From the time that I served as the Principal of both the High School and Middle School, I have marveled at the acceptance of all people in our school community. I take pride in walking visitors down to the cafeteria and having them see our diverse student body sitting together talking and laughing. I have learned just as much from the students as we have taught them. I am also not naïve, and I do realize that we are not perfect and change is needed to become even more inclusive.
In my role as Superintendent, I take my leadership responsibilities seriously as I endeavor to serve all our students. I find myself asking what can I do to make a difference? How can I help our students feel empowered? One of our jobs as educators is to lead our students in positive discourse in order to help break the cycle of racism.
In order to begin the much needed but difficult conversations, I will be establishing the Clayton Equity Committee (CEC). The committee will have a diverse group of educators and students working together to address systemic inequities. My hope is this committee can be a vehicle for change and give a voice to our students. I will be forming the committee immediately upon our return to school in the fall.
I look forward to moving ahead and continuing to make a bright future for all our students.
Nikolaos C. Koutsogiannis
Superintendent of Schools