By Joseph Fratena
This letter was sent to P-H-M staff and parents:
Thursday, June 25, 2020
This morning members of Penn-Harris-Madison and Penn High School administration met with current Penn students and alumni about the state of race relations not only at Penn, but throughout P-H-M. Last Tuesday, June 16, Penn alumni and current students started a petition and shared an open letter to bring to our attention the hurtful incidents of racism that have occurred to students during their time with us. The group brought forward a list of action items and a timeline that they’d like for the School Corporation to follow in order to bring about change. We will be meeting in July to collaborate with current students and alumni to begin implementation of some of the action items.
Today, we listened and we apologized to the group. I am taking the time now to also apologize to our greater P-H-M community and to say we must and will do better.
As I stated in my letter to P-H-M parents last Friday, June 19, “The Penn-Harris-Madison Board of School Trustees, District Administration, teachers and staff are proud to be educators. It is a call to service, and we don’t take our role of helping to form future citizens of our community, country, and the world lightly.”
After listening to the students today, we know that our role as educators is more than to just teach basic academics. We must also teach and model for our students what it means to treat others as we would want to be treated. This means we cannot only not tolerate acts of bigotry and complicity, but we must be actively anti-racist. We must always be cognizant, aware and ever vigilant. This must not only be an expectation for ourselves, but also for all of our students.
Today was just the first step in a self-examination and reflection of ourselves as a school corporation, both in what we’ve done and failed to do. We pride ourselves in providing excellence in education, but excellence does not happen here if even one of our students feels pain and indignity. This conversation and journey to change the culture in our schools is just the beginning. Valuing and celebrating diversity is a tenet of P-H-M’s “Vision of Excellence” I’ve spoken of many times. We are committed to implementing reforms necessary to end racism and racial discrimination to create a positive, healthy learning environment for all students. We look forward to working with all of you!
Dr. Jerry Thacker, Superintendent
Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation