…An open letter to Arkansas’ governor regarding the reopening of schools by Stacey James McAdoo…
I am not going to spend a lot of time drafting this letter and including researched or scientific data to support my claims. History and recent actions have proven it would merely be a waste of my energy. I do want you to know that educators are not babysitters, nor should we be responsible for saving the economy or solving all of society’s problems.
I also want you to know that I am genuinely heartbroken, disappointed and enraged that city, state and educational leaders…who sit in offices and spaces where they can safely social distance that are located in buildings that are still mostly closed to the general public…who have the privilege of choosing who they share air with by deciding who (and how many people at a time) they want to see or allow into their space…are making decisions that will undoubtedly put the health and life of educators, students and their families at risk by requiring face to face instruction.
Maya Angelou’s “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time,” quote has been on repeat in my head for a while now. My biggest regret during my year of recognition as the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year was giving you the benefit of the doubt and trying to play nice/respectable politics. I had hoped that being an ex officio member of the SBE, traveling, studying various educational systems, and looking at things from a different perspective would change my lens. What I learned was that my lens was, in fact, already correct, clean, and perfectly focused.
In closing, I ask that you be straight up and honest with the people. Tell the public that “everyday” people (including teachers, hourly workers, incarcerated individuals, etc.) are inconsequential. Let us know the acceptable number of school related COVID sickness and death you are okay with. Tell the people that once the data showed that poor and minority communities were getting sick and dying in disproportionate rates, that’s when the state and national focus began to shift. Let them know you are experimenting with us so you can learn how to protect you better. It would also be nice to share where, how, and under what conditions your grandchildren are being educated. Be transparent with the public about the true extent of practical and logistical guidance provided to the districts related to reopening the schools from March 2020 until now. Paint an accurate picture for the parents about what education in most public schools and classrooms will truly look like (especially for those in older buildings and more impoverished communities) as educators try to restrict movement and stop the sharing of contaminated air in poorly ventilated spaces for roughly seven hours straight. Tell them that economics (and the money generated from sports and standardized testing) are more important than people. As my momma usta always say, “tell the truth and shame the devil.”
*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is the sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. For seventeen years she served as an Oral Communications instructor and AVID Coordinator at the historic Little Rock Central High School. She currently teaches future teachers in the Excel program and is the lead Secondary Novice Teacher Mentor for the Little Rock School District where she continues to be the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*