ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – The superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools sent a letter to families Sunday night addressing how the district intends to move forward from racial tensions that sparked earlier this month.

Superintendent Park Ginder said in the letter he has met with students, families, and local organizations to implement positive changes in the district. According to the letter, the Minority Student Union at Homestead High School is organizing committees to recognize culture and history, and events are being planned to educate and celebrate diversity at Homestead.

SACS said it is partnering with community leaders to further these efforts in the district as a whole.

“While many of the ideas shared here are simplistic and can be implemented quickly, intentional change takes time,” Ginder said in the letter. “SACS must work to create an inclusive school culture.”

Here’s the complete letter:

Good evening, SACS families.

Over the past 10 days, I have spent a great deal of time meeting with students, talking with families, and connecting with community members and organizations. All have shared their apprehension about the recent events and reports about SACS. I am encouraged by the number of students, staff, and community members who have offered their commitment to be part of the solution. This is how we will move forward as a school district and as a community. I am thankful.

In addition to my own conversations and meetings, Homestead High School (HHS) principal Susan Summers has met with students one-on-one and in small groups to brainstorm both immediate and long-term ideas about how SACS can continue progress. Student representatives from the HHS Minority Student Union are creating an art, book, and history committees that will work to embed and celebrate minority history and accomplishments; a Culture Night Committee dedicated to establishing and hosting an event that celebrates minority food, music, fashion, and culture; a Community Outreach Committee that will foster student relationships with community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and expand volunteer efforts and opportunities; and a Young Women’s Mentoring Committee designed to create HHS mentorship opportunities with girls at Summit and Woodside Middle Schools.

Students have also asked for space at HHS to celebrate our school’s diversity with what is being called the “Inspiration Wall”. With a different focus each month, the wall will feature and display important contributions from Black history, women’s history, Arab American history, Asian Pacific history, and Hispanic Heritage, just to name a few. Then, at the end of the year, the wall will reflect a celebration of a multiethnic school and society.

While SACS administrators, teachers, and staff are responsible to prepare our students for academic success, we must not forget our responsibility to help raise great citizens. Students have asked for more opportunities to be involved at school and for more time to connect with one another, building both unity and engagement.

While many of the ideas shared here are simplistic and can be implemented quickly, intentional change takes time. SACS must work to create an inclusive school culture. To help with that process, we have partnered with local community leaders through Fort Wayne United. We have also begun working with Dr. Will Moreland, an internationally recognized civility coach. As a former school director, Dr. Moreland understands the challenges students, teachers, and administrators face navigating the complexities of education. SACS will host Dr. Moreland on March and 7 and 8. During his visit he will lead small group discussions at Homestead and provide a student assembly aimed at building a culture of caring at Homestead. SACS is planning a community forum in conjunction with Dr. Moreland in April that will offer members of the SACS Community the opportunity to participate.

Change takes time. Please know SACS is committed to this work. It is my hope, and I believe the hope of every single student, parent, SACS employee, and community member that I have talked to over the last week and a half, that this work will foster the type of inclusive community we all desire SACS to be. Our school district is not perfect, and that is not our goal. Our goal is that each student has a positive and welcoming experience at each of our schools.

As a reminder, a couple of items: SACS is closed tomorrow in observance of Presidents Day. We resume school on Tuesday.

Also, March 10 is our last scheduled Flex eLearning day of the school year. All SACS students will access their education via Canvas from home. All SACS teachers will participate in professional development in the morning and will be available for student questions in the afternoon.

Thank you,

Park D. Ginder, Ph.D., Superintendent
Southwest Allen County Schools