ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The Rockwood school board is expected to address the curriculum controversy at the start of Thursday's school board meeting.
Rockwood School District's Executive Director of Communications Mary LaPak said the school board will make a statement in support of its equity and inclusion curriculum and ask for civility from parents and residents in the district.
The move comes after teachers at Rockwood made a public call for civility. Parents, students, teachers, community members and activists have been at odds over Rockwood's curriculum on history and race. Critics of the district have called it "critical race theory," claiming it pushes the idea that white people are inherently racist, and people of color are inherently oppressed.
According to district officials, Rockwood doesn’t teach CRT but the district has made an effort in recent years to teach students how to think "more globally" and add classes like Black literature. LaPak said the effort to add more diversity and inclusion to its curriculum was made after seeking input from parents.
A heated forum last week highlighted the divide. The event was not hosted by the district.
In a letter sent to the district leadership, the Rockwood National Education Association said the current environment is "unhealthy and unproductive."
"We recognize the importance of parents and guardians as partners in their children’s education, and we welcome constructive, healthy dialogue as we work together. As it stands, however, teachers, administrators and other staff members, most notably people of color, find themselves targeted on social media and in public fora. It is our belief that all staff members should be able to perform their jobs in an environment of safety and mutual respect, without fear of harassment or threat."
You can read the full letter below:
Rockwood Superintendent Mark Miles responded to the letter with a note sent to the school community.
"I want to assure you that we stand behind our staff, curriculum and our goals ensuring that we are providing an equitable, welcoming and safe learning environment for all students," Miles wrote, in part.
Last Friday's forum was sparked by a leaked memo to teachers instructing them to alter or hide certain elements of the curriculum from parents. The district sent an email to parents addressing the memo. The forum brought together parents, the community and Republican Missouri lawmakers.
"The email that was sent to teachers encouraging them to hide or alter content visible to parents was not reviewed or approved by anyone before it was disseminated by an individual staff member. It does not reflect the mission, vision and values of the district and is counter to the goals set forth in our strategic plan.”
Thursday's school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. LaPak said the district is preparing for a large turnout. She said those who want to speak during public comment will be brought in 10 at a time to maintain social distancing.
You can read Superintendent Miles full letter to the Rockwood community below:
"As we enter into the final weeks of the school year, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank you for your outstanding work with our students. To say this has been a challenging year is certainly an understatement. Recently, Rockwood has been the subject of local and national media attention, as well as countless social media posts, and it has unfortunately cast a negative light on our work and our community. I am so very sorry for the distraction from our true task, which is providing an outstanding educational experience for our students.
"Unfortunately, some of the things circulating in our community and directed toward staff have been hurtful and disturbing. The negative rhetoric can certainly be discouraging. We stand with our staff members and remain so proud of our work in support of our students, parents and community. We shall continue to work together to encourage a return to civil, respectful and productive dialogue that furthers the elements set forth in our strategic plan, The Way Forward. Together, with every interaction, we can foster a culture of unity, collaboration, cooperation and optimism to guide us moving forward as a team and as partners with our parents and community members to ensure student success.
"I want to assure you that we stand behind our staff, curriculum and our goals ensuring that we are providing an equitable, welcoming and safe learning environment for all students. Our high caliber curriculum helps Rockwood maintain our reputation as one of the highest-performing districts in the state; helps our students routinely test well above state averages and, perhaps most importantly, helps us provide well-rounded educational experiences for students so they are prepared to graduate with the skills necessary to pursue further education or the start of a career. Our equity and inclusion work is an integral part of our whole-child approach that recognizes how essential it is to meet the social-emotional needs of our students so that all students feel a sense of belonging, as well as feeling safe and respected so they are equipped to learn and grow.
"We have come so very far this year and we are in the home stretch. Our students have been able to learn and thrive while remaining safe during this pandemic and we have sustained growth and excellence in academics, arts and athletics. Our teachers, administrators and support staff have worked so hard this year doing everything possible to ensure student success. We should all be very proud of the work we do educating and supporting students, and please know, we will always encourage transparency with our parents and all stakeholders. Our students are successful because of the quality of our curriculum and the skill with which we are reaching, supporting and inspiring them.
"When the interim superintendent is announced, I want you to know that I am committed to working closely with that individual to ensure a smooth and positive transition. I am also optimistic that as a district we will end the school year on a positive and encouraging note as we celebrate our many successes despite the challenges of the past year."