SUMMIT, NJ - In a letter e-mailed to the parents and guardians of Summit Public School students, Superintendent of School June Chang has outlined steps the District has taken since swastikas were found -- within days of each other -- at both Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School and Summit High School.
The message began by stating that, "It is important to touch base with our community now that some time has passed since the painful events of the past few weeks. We, the Board of Education and Administration, have had some time to think about these events, begin conversations, reflect on our current programming, and contemplate next steps."
Noting that the District's mission statement directs the Summit school system to “sustain an excellent system of learning [that] promotes pride in diversity; and results in responsible and productive citizens of the highest integrity,” Chang pointed out that efforts toward and supporting the mission began years ago and are ongoing, specifically highlighting:
- An enhanced advisory program at the middle school.
- An expanded Guidance Department and focus on emotional learning.
- A partnership with the new Youth Empowerment Alliance program.
- The implementation of restorative practices at the secondary level.
- An increase in activities that celebrate diversity and embrace multiculturalism at every level.
Chang also highlighted the fact that the Board of Education has "increasingly allocated resources for programs, both curricular and extracurricular, that enhance the ability of our educators to fulfill our mission."
In response to the recent events -- which shocked, outraged and saddened the Summit community -- Chang listed several steps the District has since taken, including:
- Connecting with key stakeholders in and out of our schools.
- Reaching out to the Anti-Defamation League for a meeting on how the District can continue to evolve its programming on all issues of diversity and inclusion.
- Meeting with the District's administrative staff.
- Pledging to continue to plan, organize, and strengthen its messaging and programming related to promoting respect, positive culture, and acceptance of every individual.
Stating that "this process takes time and collaboration, and we are mindful of child-centered, age-appropriate activities and programs," Chang -- who attended the Community Menorah Lighting service at Temple Sinai on December 4 -- invited members of the community to come to the next 'Coffee & Conversation' event that he and Board President Debra McCann will host on December 11 and "join the dialogue."
Pointing out that a central theme of the menorah lighting event was "the importance of shedding light where there is darkness," Chang wrote that he "has been encouraged by, and am proud of our students, staff, and the Summit community for the overwhelming outpouring of unity and support that they have expressed. Their actions in response to these events embody the idea of 'light into darkness'."