Sunday, November 20, 2016

On Being Thankful

We have made it to the week of Thanksgiving, and I am very grateful for so much in my life.

I am grateful for my family who support me in all that I do.  I would not be where I am today without them.  Thank you to My Bride, Our Boys and our 8 month old puppy Sadie.

I am grateful to know that Our Boys go to a school where the "Power of Yet" is a reality.  Thank you for giving My Children room to grow.

I am grateful to work in a place where I can sit and learn from children.  Thank you for allowing me to be a life long learner.

I am grateful to all the Faculty, Staff, Administration, School Board Members, and community of Montpelier Public Schools for making our district a place that is safe for all students.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

You Will Never Regret Being Kind

This summer on our family vacation to North Carolina - and the first major road trip for the Ricca Family - we stumbled across the song "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw.  It resonated with us immediately with it's simplicity and quickly became a family favorite.  We stopped on it every time we were flipping through radio stations through the various states we drove through.  If you have not heard it, the video is here, courtesy of YouTube and the lyrics are here thanks to Google Play Music.

This week was one in which we needed a great deal of kindness.  There were many hurt feelings, surprised professional political pundits, and deep questions about the future of our country.  After I had the "Who Won" conversation with Our Boys on Wednesday morning, I came across this tweet from Alex Shevrin (@shevtech):

More than anything we need kindness to move forward.  Perhaps for some, it's not even time to move forward yet.  We need kindness and patience to stay put with those who are still stunned.  We need kindness to build relationships with those who disagree with our view of the election and the outcome.  We need to be kind to one another.  

"Help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind."  You will never regret being kind.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Courage of My Convictions

I've had a pretty tremendous ten days.  On October 27, at the Rowland Foundation (@RowFn) Conference at UVM, I was able to spend some time with Jonathan Kozol.  Kozol has written many books about the lack of equity in education, including Savage Inequalities.  I read Savage Inequalities while I was an undergraduate student and was inspired to go into education, partially because in that book he noted the per pupil spending of my hometown, Mt. Vernon, NY in comparison to the neighboring village Bronxville, NY.

Kozol writes about children with such awe and reverence that I have yet to encounter in another author.  I was privileged to spend some time with him in conversation after his workshop and just listening to him was inspiring.

Then on Monday night we went trick-or-treating in Burlington and as a result got to meet and shake hands with Bernie Sanders.  He and his wife were at home giving out candy, just like almost everyone else on October 31.  He could not have been more authentic.  His smile was exactly like the smile you saw every time on television during the debates.  His eye contact was genuine, he shook the hand of each of Our Boys and even ruffled Brendan's hair.  It was *again* inspiring to be in the presence of someone who has been such an advocate for equity.  I was moved by his humility and humanity.  

As I reflected on meeting these two tremendous advocates for equity, I realized that I am not doing enough.  Now, I am not going to write books and I am certainly not going to run for President of the United States.  I am, however, going to speak out more about the lack of equity that I see.  

I will start with an uncomfortable topic, especially in the state of Vermont and that is race.  We are a very, very white state and in Montpelier, a very, very white capital city.  According to the Census Bureau, the State of Vermont as of July 1, 2015 is 94.8% white, and the City of Montpelier is 93.7% white (that number is from the 2010 census).  

We have seen incidents in the past year demonstrating the violence and death that results from black encounters with law enforcement.  These incidents are causing black parents to have conversations with their children that sound nothing like the conversations I have with My Children.  Watch this New York Times Op-Doc called A Conversation With My Black Son.  It is compelling.  It is only five minutes - please watch it.  

I have also watched from afar the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  At times, I have bristled at that notion and even in some of my own tweets used the hashtag #AllLivesMatter.  And I was wrong.  Let me say that again: I was wrong.  If you do not believe me, I encourage you to read this article from the Huffington Post, The Real Reason White People Say 'All Lives Matter'.  It convinced me and I assure you, there won't ever again be the #AllLivesMatter hashtag beyond this blog post from me.  

We have equity issues in our state and in our city.  We have an obligation to ensure that public schools give every student what they need.  In some cases, that means more because some of our students come to us needing more, due to circumstances beyond their control.  I started my teaching career in a neighborhood in Chicago that most people came to only when there were Bulls or Blackhawks games.  I was driven by equity then and I am reminded by meeting two champions of equity that I need to still be driven by that commitment to justice.  

Rebecca Holcombe, the Vermont Secretary of Education reminded us recently that "your prosperity is tied to the most vulnerable child in your community." I stand by that quote and I intend to lead Montpelier Public Schools well into the future based on the commitment to meet the needs all students, especially the most vulnerable children in our community, equitably.  

I stand by the courage of my convictions.  Will you join me?