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November 8, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff Members:
I wanted you to know that I was able to address our entire staff prior to the start of a professional development day on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. As part of that message, I asked all of our staff members to help in any way they can, above and beyond what they already do, to aid us in preventing any kind of disparaging, hateful remarks that are being said amongst students.
Currently, we live in very difficult and troubling times in a world that has become divided and it seems like hatred is becoming the pervasive pattern of speech. My message to the staff was that WE as a school district cannot allow any form of speech that makes any one of the students or staff members that we serve feel uncomfortable. Additionally, I informed our staff members to be proactive in the way they listen to students and not be afraid to either provide restorative practices or report immediately any incident in which they witness ANY act against someone that is inappropriate. We need to be the catalyst and the example for making a change!
Please know that we will never tolerate any form of hate speech within our buildings and any and all incidents that are reported to us will be investigated. Not only will the perpetrator be dealt with accordingly, we will also be sure to place appropriate restorative practices in place for the victim(s) as well. You have my word that these matters have been and will continue to be taken very seriously and we as a group of educators who serve this community must set an example and put corrective actions in place in order to serve the common good!
I am asking each of you to have a healthy and productive conversation with your respective children that treating people inappropriately is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. WE must be the change going forward because the world, through various social media platforms, has allowed hateful rhetoric to become the norm. In my mind that is disturbing and damaging to those that we serve and we as a collective society must be better going forward!
Dr. John A. Toleno
Superintendent of Schools
August 23, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,
I hope you all had a wonderful summer and you were all able to relax, refresh and recharge! Here at the Upper Merion Area School District, we are looking forward to having the students back for the first day of school on Monday, August 29th. I am sure by now you have received information from the various building principals regarding any of the particulars associated with each of our respective buildings.
With all of that being said, please know that I am extremely pleased to inform all of you that for the first time in a long time, we will not be starting out the school year with any restrictions associated with COVID-19! I am grateful that we are beginning to be able to move away from all of the “barriers” that we needed to implement while we are dealing with the pandemic. My hope and mission is to make sure that we continue down this path of “normalcy” for the 2022-2023 school year.
We have spent a great deal of time hiring many new staff members to replace not only those who retired at the end of the 2021-2022 school year but also some additional staff members for any number of reasons associated with growth within the district. I am very pleased with the staff members that have chosen to join our team as I believe these new hires will only enhance an already strong group of people who educate and interact with your children on a daily basis.
For those of you who traverse the middle school and high school property on a daily basis, I ask for your patience as you drive on our property as things have changed significantly! With the opening of the new high school, there will be new traffic patterns that will be unfamiliar to all of you so please be cautious and follow the appropriate signage as you enter and exit this campus. We will have security guards on hand during arrival and dismissal for at least the first week of school to provide direction as well, and I would appreciate your patience going forward as this will be new for everyone involved.
In closing, I would like to say that we are all here to serve the students of this community and I believe that the Upper Merion Area School District is second to none as we have incredible staff members and incredible facilities! I look forward to having all of our students back on the 29th and I wish you a wonderful evening.
Dr. John A. Toleno
Superintendent of Schools
August 18, 2021
Dear Parents, Guardians and Staff:
I wanted to take a moment and tell all of you how excited I am that we will be opening the doors for all students on Monday, August 30th, for the start of the 2021/2022 school year! Needless to say, we have been navigating some very interesting times since March of 2020 and I am very proud of the work we have done during very difficult circumstances. During the COVID Pandemic, my number one goal was to keep all of those that I serve healthy while still providing educational programming that was appropriate and would allow for continued growth. I am very proud of what we accomplished during difficult times and I thank you for your diligence, patience, trust and efforts in this regard.
As we begin the new school year our focus will be on continued academic growth and also assessing any social and emotional issues suffered by our students due to a loss in personal interactions during the Pandemic. I ask for your patience going forward as we continue to navigate these difficult times together.
With all of that being said, please be advised that starting on Monday, August 23, 2021, all individuals who enter any of the buildings of the Upper Merion Area School District will be required to wear masks at all times while indoors. I am taking this step out of concern for the recent growth of the COVID Delta variant and I believe that this is the best course of action going forward. This action is being taken based on our Health and Safety Plan which was previously approved by our Board of Education and subsequently submitted to the Department of Education.
I believe this action is in the best interest of all of the individuals that are served by our District and please know that I will continue to monitor this situation and as soon as I think I can remove this “masking mandate”, I will do so accordingly.
I thank you all for your patience and support during these unprecedented times.
March 18, 2021
Dear Staff, Students and Family Members:
Over the past few months and again recently, news sources have reported violence against Asian and Asian-American individuals. The Upper Merion Area School District denounces bias, violence, and hate crimes toward Asian and Asian American individuals in our community, across the nation, and around the globe. Hateful anti-Asian rhetoric in both national and international discourse and anti-Asian violence is evidence of systemic racism, which can never be accepted nor tolerated.
Our District stands with our Asian-American staff, students, and families and reiterates our commitment to welcoming, inclusive, and safe learning environments. Ensuring that all students, staff, families, and community members in the Upper Merion Area School District feel respected and valued and that all members of our school community demonstrate respect and value for each other remains our priority.
June 4, 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff, and Students:
As I sit here in my home office, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting upon the issues of the past several months including Covid-19 but mostly, I am lost in my emotions regarding the most recent tragedy of Mr. George Floyd. Many of you have reached out to me wanting me to send out MY message to all of you and I appreciate the kind words that came with your desire to hear from me.
Those people who know me as a husband, father, grandfather and leader know that I have always lived and preached that you should never say, do or write anything while emotionally charged as your words may not come out the way you would want them to. That is why I have waited until now to put my thoughts in writing to all of you as I did not want to say something that would not be well thought out or would fail to provide guidance and comfort to those I serve.
With all of that being said, I am disgusted by the senseless, tragic, unnecessary death of Mr. George Floyd. His death was at the hands of someone who was entrusted to “protect and to serve” all of us in this great country no matter what the color of someone’s skin may be! What saddens me even more is that countless people have been affected by the senseless act of at least four (4) police officers and others who watched this horrific incident unfold and for that I am disgusted, disappointed and outraged.
As a leader of a school system, I am constantly asking myself how we as a system can get better, and what we may be doing wrong. In this instance, I am paralyzed by the thought that we (the educational system) failed these police officers as we did not teach them to “hear” what Mr. Floyd was saying. Yes the officers were listening to him cry out that he “could not breathe” but those involved did not actually “hear” what he was saying. Furthermore, I am concerned that our great nation is not and has not been “hearing” the cries of People of Color for many years and I grieve at that thought. Something so simple as “hearing” what someone is saying, whether it be a cry for life or a cry for change regarding injustices, is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated going forward!
We must demand more of each other and those that we surround ourselves with. We must “champion” each other’s causes and realize and respect the different perspective that we all bring to the collective table. Mr. Floyd did not have to nor did he deserve to die at the hands of those police officers who in my opinion disrespected the shield and the oath to “protect and to serve”!
I cannot put myself in the shoes of our Black students, community members, families and staff, but please know that we as a school district will be here to support you as we traverse this horrible situation together. Please know that you are loved and valued for what you bring to the table each and every day and it is my hope that we as a “Viking Nation” can provide each of you with the supports necessary to navigate this horrible situation as a FAMILY!
My best to all of you,