How we treat each other matters. We are at a moment in history of elevated tensions, not the least of which is the result of a pandemic that has now impacted three separate school years. People are angry, frustrated, and tired. From masks, to vaccines, to quarantines, the restrictions and strategies designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have lingered beyond what some are willing to accept. At the same time, our ability to meet the needs of our students while also minimizing the potential of COVID spread on our campuses has required us to continue following at times unpopular public health guidance. School boards, both locally and nationally, have been the targets of passionate people staking out one side or the other regarding masks mandates, virus mitigation strategies, and concerns about curriculum.
Sadly, amidst all the noise, something has been lost that is essential to the future of our community. It seems as though people have forgotten how to listen to each other and to understand different perspectives. Social media has created a megaphone for anyone with a strongly held opinion, and increasingly, it seems people are willing to believe what they read in a few short characters rather than taking the time to gather and evaluate more information and engage in constructive dialogue. False narratives spread like wildfire, leaving behind a charred landscape that will take significant time to recover. The idea that a person is either liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, for or against public education results in creating an “us vs. them” mentality, leaving very little room for constructive dialogue and debate regarding shared interests and concerns. Most of us don’t fall neatly into one box or the other. Our perspectives exist on a broad continuum, which is why engaging in active listening and constructive dialogue is vitally important.
Scottsdale Unified School District continues to work on finalizing a strategic plan designed to ensure each one of our students is engaged in world-class, future-focused learning. We are a diverse district of more than 21,000 students from all walks of life. Each student deserves access to high-quality learning opportunities and the support necessary to be successful to move through the system and into the world. Wouldn’t it be something if all of the energy and passion displayed behind the support of or opposition to masks could be re-focused to ensuring we have the strategies, support, and resources necessary to ensure high-level outcomes for all of our students? A vibrant and thriving community requires a strong public education system. It is important to listen to diverse perspectives and create a constructive environment that models for our students the way adults can wrestle with significant challenges and work toward common goals for the greater good.
In the coming weeks we will celebrate two significant holidays. On November 11, we celebrate our veterans. The freedoms we enjoy are protected and preserved by those who have been willing to sacrifice theirs. To those who have served, thank you. The Thanksgiving holiday provides us an opportunity to pause and reflect on our many blessings. I am grateful for the tireless effort of the Scottsdale Unified staff, who have endured through this pandemic, navigating the uncertainties with grace and diplomacy. I am grateful for our students who have shown tremendous resilience. I am grateful for our community that continues to support Scottsdale Unified School District as it has throughout our 125 years educating the next generation of leaders. Wishing you and your families a safe and happy holiday season.
To contact Dr. Menzel or to learn more about Scottsdale Unified School District and its award-winning academic, arts and athletic programs, call 480.484.6100 or go to www.susd.org.