I come to you today both moderately hopeful and doubly determined as both a rabbi and a Seattle Public School (SPS) parent. I am grateful for the recent decision to correct the first day of kindergarten in 2021 from Rosh HaShanah — the Jewsh New Year (a decision that other districts still need to emulate). And yet, the unfortunate actions of SPS leadership in their ongoing negotiations with the educator's union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), have left me no choice but to act in the name of safety, health, equity and educational justice. We cannot look away until these negotiations are mutually agreed upon.
Over 40 community leaders and a growing number of community organizations have signed on in full solidarity with the members of SEA as their negotiating team and leadership work tirelessly for all in our community, with particular attention to Black, Brown and disabled community members.
Meanwhile, SPS seems to have repaired their recent missteps as related in the March 9 joint statement from SEA and SPS. Faculty and staff are at the core of Seattle public schools and safety and equity for them is safety and equity for us all, and SPS’s return to good-faith bargaining is encouraging. As negotiations continue, let us all pay close attention — the Hebrew of which translates literally as "lift our heart" — to the still unfolding negotiations. This is not over and may we continue watching and showing up.
School Board and senior SPS leadership: Let this recent repair be lasting and let it be a lesson that while it is commendable and even covenantal to repair past wrongs, it is also essential to put worker justice at the forefront of labor negotiations. Please follow up on your recent realignment to ensure that unilateral and non-negotiated decisions nor misleading communication to parents are avoided in the future. For the sake of racial, disability, labor, and educational justice.
Further, as negotiations are hopefully on track to a safe and equitable agreement, please let us all reread and recommit in action to School Board Resolution 2016/17-1 for the sake of the stewards of this land, the people of the Duwamish Tribe. Our communities deserve better than the status quo and it will take all of us in committed relationship to realize a safe and equitable future for our educators, young people and entire community.
Thank you educators, thank you school staff, thank you bargaining team, thank you SPS leadership, thank you parents and thank you students — we have all been put in situations we neither expected nor were prepared for. As we mark a year since schools closed, may we reflect on how resilient, persistent, creative, and hard working we have proven. Yashar ko'ach: This Hebrew phrase means not just "nice work," but also, I deeply and humbly thank you. May we move together forward in strength.
Read more in the Mar. 10-16, 2021 issue.