Respect and kindness

Posted by Dr. Mark Holodick on 11/17/2016

Dear BSD Community,

At the start of the school year I wrote a blog piece titled “Feeling Hopeful” in which I addressed the importance of embracing our diversity and supporting one another for the greater good of all. I shared a personal story about empathy in action, emphasizing that acts of kindness matter. I was hopeful then, and I remain hopeful and optimistic now, that we, as a community, are continuing to move forward toward true equality and greatness for all.

Sadly, recent current events around the nation suggest that some people, and specific groups of people, have recently been the target of senseless acts of bigotry, inappropriate and offensive statements, and bullying. For us here in the Brandywine School District, as I hope it is throughout every other community in the nation, this is simply unacceptable. Not only does it fly in the face of both our school district’s and our community’s core values, it places all that we’ve worked for at risk. We must not forget that what makes us great is our diversity and the ability for all of us to live and work collectively and collaboratively toward common goals. This has always been, and will always be, Brandywine’s expectation and approach. We don’t always have the exact same ideas, beliefs, and opinions. We do, however, all want and expect every student and family to be respected, valued, appreciated, and cared for. Regardless of things such as economic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or title, we all want and deserve to be treated with humility, justice, and empathy. This is the foundation of any great school and district. It is what allows for successful anti-bullying policies, initiatives, and programs to take root and have impact. I’ve said many times over that, as superintendent, I aspire to oversee schools where every student feels welcome, cared for, appreciated, safe, and valued. Every student should believe that they are our #1 customer and first priority. When a school culture is steeped in this philosophy, amazing social, emotional, and academic strides can be made. Brandywine’s reputation across the state is strong. I would argue that this is, in large part, due to the welcoming and supportive environment that we have worked so hard to cultivate and nurture.

I had the opportunity to witness this in person last night as I attended Mount Pleasant High School’s dress rehearsal of Peter/Wendy. As I watched, I saw students from different backgrounds, of different colors, genders, sexual orientation, and age working together to produce something magical for others to enjoy. They laughed with one another, were serious at times, and appeared to be living in the moment. They weren’t hanging out on social media ignoring each other, nor were they separated into small social groups or cliques. Rather, they were together, enjoying each other’s company while working together toward their common goal. It was completely evident that they were not concerned about socio-economic status, sexist stereotypes, or the racial divides that have dominated so much of the news recently. They were all one thing – students. It was truly enlightening and joyful to see. It was even better that I got to share it with my youngest daughter. She witnessed what I just described, and for this I am hopeful – hopeful that she will grow up in a community, and a nation, where we all treat each other with respect and kindness.

We have an opportunity right now to show others how it can, and should, be done. I encourage all of us, myself included, to look for both small and large ways in which we can reinforce our mission to make every person we encounter feel welcome and supported. There are actions that each of us can take that will make an immediate impact. With Thanksgiving upon us, it is the perfect time to share kind words, show compassion, and voice appreciation for everyone that makes up our wonderfully diverse community. If nothing else, spending time with our children and family keeps all of us grounded in what is truly important.