Superintendent's Update - June 24, 2021

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

I hope you're enjoying this incredible June weather.  Last evening, the School Committee held its final meeting of the 2020-2021 school year.  This year they met 52 times, about twice as often as a typical year, and that doesn't account for additional subcommittee work and significant preparation for meetings.  We are very fortunate to have such a thoughtful and committed group of citizens who are willing to volunteer such an enormous amount of time to serve as community leaders, and I am grateful for their skillful advocacy for and unwavering support of our schools.

At last night's meeting, the School Committee decided, by a 3-2 vote, to decline to take any action to change the SHS Colonials name and mascot.  They also indicated that they believed it is within the administration's purview to pursue the option of updating the mascot's presentation, as recommended by the mascot study group.  Further, the School Committee also voted unanimously to charge the administration with developing more robust educational programming relative to the history of "Colonials" and the history of local Native American Nations.  The video of the discussion and votes can be viewed here, and you can find my recommendation to the School Committee on the matter here.  Thank you to all who provided feedback on this issue, the vast majority of which was thoughtful and respectful.  

However, this has been a divisive issue in our community, and I would like to restate something that I communicated last evening and in my memo:  I believe that it is very important to emphasize that this is a complex issue with many nuances, and that reasonable people have different perspectives that should be considered, valued, and respected. While some will be displeased with the outcome no matter what, the school district must continue to approach this topic by modeling civil discourse and promoting empathy for different points of view. I am hopeful that strong disagreements will not lead to unnecessary and damaging divisions.  Going forward, I am confident that the SHS leadership will engage the school community, and the larger Shrewsbury community, in educational opportunities regarding the historical context of the "Colonials" nickname, and that they will thoughtfully consider any potential updates to how the mascot is presented. As they do this work, I ask everyone to be respectful when debating this or any controversial issue related to our school community.  Thank you again to the SHS Mascot Ad Hoc Study Group members, who modeled how a divisive and emotional topic can be discussed thoughtfully and without rancor.

Last night, the School Committee also completed my annual evaluation.  The feedback that you provided to the School Committee and me through the online surveys was very helpful -- thank you to everyone who participated.  You can view the results of the staff survey here, the family and community survey here, and the my evaluation document here.  As I tried to express last night, I am humbled by this process, as everyone who is part of our school community deserves credit for the school district's success.  I am so grateful to all of the students, families, community members, and colleagues who have supported the work of our schools during this remarkably complex past year.  I also want to give special thanks to my family, without whose support I could not do this work, and with whom I am looking forward to spending much more time with this summer compared to last year.   

Finally, here is a link to our final COVID-19 data dashboard of the school year, with zero cases over the last two weeks of school, thank goodness.  Here's hoping we won't need a COVID dashboard next school year at all.

So that's a wrap on the 2020-2021 school year.  Pick whatever cliché you would like to describe it ("one for the history books" comes to mind).  I leave it grateful for all you did and very proud of what you accomplished.  Enjoy your summer, everyone!


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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