“I felt compelled to reach out to you today. I moved to Chicago from Mississippi as a child in the summer of 1969. It was a year after the protests and riots about racial injustice and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I could still smell the smoke in the air from the burnt buildings. It’s a smell I will never forget.

“As the protests of this past week have shown us, the smell is still in the air for black and brown Americans across this country. Racism and inequity continue to linger like smoke for too many people in too many communities.

“But it doesn’t have to. And, it shouldn’t. As public education leaders, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t any longer.

“We need to ensure that our students feel safe, supported and valued in our schools. That they see us – on their behalf – fanning the flames of hope and promise and access – of respect, and of civility.

“The onus is on us to be the change for this generation and future generations.

“Let us acknowledge and recognize the hurt within our communities that we continue to witness through the protests and riots across our country and within our state in response to the murders of African Americans over the past few months: George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

“I’m calling on us, as Arizona’s education community – those who lead school districts that are so often the backbone of the community – to be a voice for change and a healing presence within our communities.

“And to continue striving for excellence and equity. Ignoring the obvious is not an option.

“I encourage you to think of your role and what you can do to help.

“I encourage you to choose kindness, tolerance, understanding and empathy – and model it for the students and communities you have taken an oath to serve.

“Know that the Arizona School Boards Association is with you in this critical work.

“I will end with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ “