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From the Superintendent: A Culture of Respect

A boy and girl stand in front of a school bus

Dear Clarkston Community Schools Families, 

It has been our pleasure to welcome your family back to our schools these past few weeks, and I am proud to say the 2021-2022 school year is off to a great start. Today we shared in a district-wide moment of silence in honor of Patriot Day, a national day of remembrance to honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and for the firefighters, police officers, and military personnel who have dedicated and lost their lives protecting our safety, our freedom, and our democracy. 

There isn’t a civil servant out there who does it “for the glory,” and educators are no exception. While we don’t expect outward displays of praise, we do appreciate the support of the vast majority of parents who understand that our committed faculty and staff give 110% every day. 

At the same time, I feel it necessary to address some recent interactions with some vocal citizens who have been less than respectful toward our learning community.

As public figures, the Board of Education and I can tolerate and even accept a certain level of negative behaviors, tactics, and campaigning aimed to damage our personal or professional reputations and impede our work. But when it comes to our tireless public school teachers and staff, there is no acceptable level of disrespect or public shaming. The persistent attempts by some in our community to undermine our educational system stings, particularly as it comes on the heels of almost two years of partnering with parents to provide pandemic teaching across social distances and computer screens.

I’m keenly aware that these individuals seem to want to deny us opportunities for respectful and constructive dialogue by supporting a national narrative that seeks to fracture teacher-parent trust. They recently shared an online Google form for reporting anonymous allegations of perceived staff “wrongdoing.” Clarkston Community Schools did not authorize the creation of this form, nor are these types of “incident reports” an acceptable outlet for filing any sort of complaint with us. As an academic institution of integrity, we provide multiple appropriate channels (see Board Policy) for resolving issues, and oftentimes, concerns are settled with a conversation between parent and teacher, or through a follow-up conversation with the building principal. 

Despite attempts by our administration and Board of Education to better understand their specific concerns through multiple emails, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings, several individuals have continued spreading misinformation about the district's equity and inclusion practices. Managing this misinformation distracts from our core business of educating children.   

When we talk about equity and inclusion in Clarkston, we mean two things: eliminating barriers to student achievement and supporting a culture of respect for all students and staff. This reflects the high premium we place in Clarkston on teacher-student relationships; of knowing when students need additional support or an extra challenge to reach their potential and having those resources readily available.

We do this in accordance with our district’s mission and vision, as well as our Respect Code, which I’d like to reiterate with you today:

“Mutual respect among all members of our school community is the cornerstone of our interaction and behavior. We acknowledge the dignity and worth of one another. We strive to create a welcoming atmosphere by our courtesy to others and our conduct. Students and staff of Clarkston Community Schools:

  • Have the right to be physically safe.
  • Have the responsibility not to harm other people or their belongings.
  • Have the responsibility to consider and be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.
  • Have the right to be emotionally safe.
  • Have the responsibility to promote acceptance of self and others.
  • Have the responsibility to consider and be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.
  • Have the right to communicate their needs and feelings.
  • Have the responsibility to express themselves in a constructive, non-threatening manner.
  • Have the responsibility to make amends after offending others.”

The district’s Respect Code was developed collaboratively by a committee of students and staff more than a decade ago to articulate our expectations for the civil and humane treatment of one another. The Code will be reviewed and reconfirmed in the months ahead to ensure that it still reflects our values today and assures that certain rights and responsibilities are upheld at all times in our school community. 

Moving outside of the bounds of respect only serves to divide our community, demoralize our educators, and degrade our extraordinary academic experience. 

But we won’t let that happen. We stand behind ALL of our thoughtful and capable students and staff, and we stand behind this exceptional school district that we’ve built together for today’s students as well as future generations.

I am proud of our district’s direction and look forward to your continued support and partnership.

Dr. Shawn Ryan
Superintendent of Schools 

About Clarkston Community Schools: Clarkston is a highly regarded school district with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. We have seven elementary schools (K-5), one middle school serving grades 6-7, one junior high for grades 8-9, and Clarkston High School, which serves students in grades 10-12. We also have a virtual academy, an Early Childhood Center serving children ages 3-5, and an alternative high school/community education facility. Clarkston Community Schools students are well-prepared for a future that excites them, and believe that they can achieve their dreams. The mission of Clarkston Community Schools is to create a learning environment where students, staff, and families are challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported.

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Media Contact: Mary Ellen Rowe, Director of Marketing and Community Relations (248) 623-5460.

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