Message from the Superintendent - May 18, 2022

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

I had planned on sending a more typical message to you today, including a reminder that the School Committee is meeting at a different time than usual today, at 5:30pm, to address only one agenda item, which is to vote on the ratification of a new contract with the teachers’ association (it will be broadcast and streamed live through SELCO Channels 29 & 329 and the Shrewsbury Media Connection website).  However, given recent news I feel a different message is in order.

The beautiful weather today is in contrast to the heaviness many of us carry in our hearts this week.  SHS Principal, Todd Bazydlo, recently communicated to the high school community that a member of the senior Class of 2022, Kya Providence, died after fighting cancer for many years.  If it weren’t for this terrible disease, Kya would have celebrated her high school graduation and 18th birthday in early June.  As Mr. Bazydlo wrote, "For those who knew Kya, they would describe her as funny, always upbeat, and possessing an infectious smile.  Kya’s courage and determination to attend school as much as possible while facing her illness speaks volumes about her strength of character.  Kya’s work ethic and positive outlook on life should serve as a model for every member of our school community.”   Our sincere condolences go out to Kya’s family, friends, and all who knew her through our SPS community.  I know that the educators, paraprofessionals, administrators, and, especially, school nurses who worked with Kya over her years at Sherwood, Oak, and SHS were incredibly dedicated to her, and for them this loss is especially hard.  

It is also a week when America must grapple with more senseless murders of innocent people, motivated by hatred of Black people in one mass shooting and by political hatred of people from a different country (Taiwan) in another.  These shootings in Buffalo, NY and Laguna Woods, CA are the latest chilling reminders of what happens when individuals become radicalized and carry out their malicious worldview through violence.  They are also why we need to do all that we can to ensure that our community’s young people learn to discern what is true and what is right in a world where, unlike any previous generation, they can be bombarded through social media by sophisticated messages that promote warped views of humanity.  

Unfortunately, it can be our most vulnerable and young members of society who are influenced by messages of hatred of “the other.”  We must teach our students to reject ideologies that demonize those who are different and scapegoat them as the cause of society’s problems.  We must help our students recognize when propaganda from hate groups is presented in ways designed to recruit them to their ideology, with the intention to tap into feelings of anger, sadness, inferiority, and vulnerability by blaming those who are different from them for their problems, and by holding up their own group identity as superior to create a sense of belonging with the hate group itself.  To combat these insidious messages, our students must learn to recognize and stand against hatred or discrimination toward any type of human difference – whether it be race, ethnicity, religion, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, or any other characteristic.  And, if we want our students to learn these things, as adults we must stand together as a community and counter these messages of hatred with those of unconditional love.

What gives me hope are the many ways in which I see our students demonstrating acceptance of one another regardless of difference, and in the intentional ways in which our educators and staff are working to create an environment of unconditional belonging for all of our students.  What gives me hope is knowing that our teachers are providing lessons so that our students can learn from tragedies of inhumanity that have happened across human history, along with those that sadly continue to occur in the present day.  And, although I have hope, I am wary, because human society is susceptible to hatred, especially when it comes wrapped up in the promise of being accepted as “one of us.”  Unfortunately these most recent tragedies won’t be the last, and only education and intentional action by communities across our nation will break this fever of hatred that infects our society.  Our schools are working to be part of the cure.   


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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