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  • Writer's picturezsheram

Principal Ball's Reply

I've pasted his reply first, as it was thorough and the picture had to be broken up. It is below in quotes.

"Good evening Zach,

I hope my email finds you and your family well.  I have not had the pleasure of meeting you and welcome the opportunity to do so in the future.  Thank you for reaching back out and for your patience.

Specific to the screen shot you shared in your initial email, MHS, MCS and MPD have worked collaboratively to investigate this and other issues that have been brought to our attention.  Since this is an active investigation dealing with minors, I cannot share any additional information. 

I just finished my second year at MHS amongst a full blown pandemic (COVID-19) and an epidemic (centuries of systemic racism).   The impact of both on MHS families and staff has been wide spread and painful.  In an effort to give you context specific to our demographic make-up, I attached our MHS profile from this past school year.  I would like to note that our free and reduced meal program participants has most likely increased in light of the significant loss of jobs.  We will not know our exact numbers until the fall.  I share this data to frame how the school, community and district efforts to support, teach and feed our students and families almost overnight during the shutdown was a massive and cooperative effort exhausted by our staff and volunteers.  I state this not to grand stand or look for credit, but instead, highlight one of the greatest examples of action and team work for the greater good that I have ever been a part of.  The pandemic had no chance against our passion, love and resolve.  I have the same passion, hope and resolve in fighting through the epidemic of racism.  

To be clear–Black Lives Matter.  This is not a new call to action for me as our work as a school and district to fight racism started before the recent and brutal murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Carlos Ingram-Lopez and countless others.  In the spring of 2019, with the blessing of Dr. Rivera, I began researching and vetting outside vendors to provide training specific to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (aka JEDI).  As the fourth principal in five years and as a white male, I realized very early in my tenure that leading MHS would require support from inside and out.  I have been supported every step of the way by the school board and superintendent.  We did not grandstand our efforts but instead, simply went to work on our anti-racist efforts.    

To that end, a diverse group was convened in the fall of 2019 to vet each of the service providers.  The group was comprised of staff (school and central office), students, MPD Officers, School Governance Board representatives, a Marietta City Council member, and representatives from the district’s African-America Advisory and Hispanic Advisory Councils.  Additionally, our PTSA President and me as the Principal rounded out the group.

In December 2019, I brought a recommendation before the school board and superintendent and they approved our partnership with Clearwater Consulting to begin discovery and work on JEDI at MHS.  In January of 2020, we began the work in earnest with my Leadership Team, BOE members, Dr. Rivera and cabinet members.  Through the pandemic shutdown, we pressed on using Zoom and online content to build capacity at MHS.  As recently as today, my Core Team met on Zoom when most members of the team were off contract or on vacation.  To say we are committed to the work of identifying and dismantling racism at MHS is an understatement.

Our journey down the JEDI path, including identifying the need, selecting a vendor and preparing to learn and grow started over a year ago.  Over the past 12 months we have made progress in light of unprecedented obstacles, terrible losses, ongoing suffering and a palpable distance from the leaders who committed to this work.  With my commitment to this work, I fully recognize and own that we are significantly behind as a country, state, city, district, school and for many, as individuals.  With my commitment to this work, I am not only saying Black Lives Matter but also recognizing and working to build a more just, inclusive, equitable and diverse school community for all students.  With my commitment to this work I am strengthening my resolve to be an anti-racist.

Voice should echo action.  In addition to what was highlighted above, significant work has been done over the past 24 months, including but not limited to:

ü Staff has been hired that better reflect our student population.   

ü An updated MHS Mission, Values and Commitments were crafted over a 7 month period based on feedback from students, parents and staff (attached).

ü Staff has been trained on a student-centered observation tool that focuses on equity in the classroom (ELEOT 2.0).   

ü All content to the public (internal and external) are in English and Spanish. 

ü Bi-lingual staff members have been hired in both certified and classified positions.  Currently, MHS has staff who are fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic and French. 

ü ISS has been eliminated and instead, at-risk students are served in the Marietta Student Life Center (MSLC).  Formerly the Graduate Marietta Success Center.

ü The IB programmes are now fully inclusive.  No more applications or hidden rules that hinder access for underrepresented populations who want to participate in CP and/or IBDP.  In fact, IB has been moved off the 3rd floor to the main level. 

ü Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are month long, inclusive, diverse and fully funded by MHS. 

ü Students serve on the School Governance Board (SGB).  All four student representatives, which are my selections, have been, Black and Hispanic. SGB combined the traditional School Council with additional members based on our Charter and College and Career Academy commitments.

ü Instructional materials, specifically novels and primary sources have and will continue to be reviewed to bring a significantly more diverse collection and perspective to our students.

ü A gender neutral restroom will be completed this month.

ü The Woods-Wilkins Campus (PLC and MAPs) is fully integrated with MHS.  Students who are expelled are still MHS students served at MAPs with the opportunity to earn an MHS diploma. Marietta Alternative Programs (MAPs) replaced Ombudsmen in the fall of 2018. PLC students are MHS students with an opportunity to earn and MHS diploma.

None of the actions listed above and countless others not listed, were reactive to the most recent tragedies or based on the current climate and appetite that is now more open to and even embraces change, justice, BLM, police reform and equity.  What we have begun at MHS was done purposefully and with specific intent over the past 24 months.  Frankly, our efforts are well past due and not even close to enough.  A humble beginning to a journey that must out last politics, current pressure, social media influence and the faint of heart.  The war on racism will be won by those who stay the course and methodically dismantle the institutions, laws, and practices that perpetuate a hierarchy based on race, privilege and supremacy. 

Please do not misunderstand me.  Be no means have we “arrived” or are we done with our work.  Do we have racism within our ranks?  Of course.  Whatever evils exists within the larger community, exists within our school.   We suffer from every problem that plagues our homes and streets.  I gain strength from the fact that many of us are willing to face down the injustices and fight for equality and inclusion.  Sounds bites are everywhere but I have yet to see one change the world without bold and sustainable action that is meaningfully carried out by people of courage with tremendous resolve. 

We have just begun and we welcome anyone who wants to walk alongside us.  Purpose. Patience. Progress.  That is my personal and professional mandate.

Returning to school next month will be one of the greatest challenges we have ever confronted as the circumstances we are facing are unprecedented.  This morning, the school board reviewed and approved the return to school plan specific to COVID-19.  Over the next few weeks, MHS and MCS will fine tune those mitigation strategies based on changing health guidelines and directives.  Additionally, we will finalize and announce our ongoing efforts specific to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.  The next action steps will be part of the process we committed to prior to the struggle becoming front and center for our nation.    

Thank you for your passion and loyalty to MHS and our community.  I do not expect you to carry my message but understand by writing this, you will share it as you desire.  Please know that much of what is in my note to you this evening, has been and will continue to be part of my message to the greater community, students and staff.  My official statement may not be the first and I am sure it will not be the last.  It will be an authentic assessment of where we are; where we are going and echo the work we have and will continue to do as a school.      

Final note.  Back in mid-February, I asked members of the MHS Leadership Team to join me on their day off to film the video below.  Again, a humble nod to JEDI but another step, before many others, in the right direction.

Kindest Regards – KB"

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