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    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,
    Dr. Toleno