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Statement from Superintendent Dr. Cascone on West Orange Community #StrongerTogether

As we know, in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the unprecedented and challenging times through which our country has been living amidst the global pandemic have now become even more troublesome. 
I am, of course, saddened and concerned by this senseless act and understand how our citizens are compelled to protest what took place. To peaceably assemble is, of course, one of the rights afforded to all United States citizens under our constitution. After all, it was through the largely peaceful protests of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that some of the greatest strides towards equity were made in our country. However, I am equally saddened and concerned at the prospect of our nation being further plunged into discord and division at a time when we must find common ground and remain unified. 
As I watched the events unfold last night in various cities around the country, I was reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Now, more than ever, it is essential that we hear one another, we listen to one another. I would suggest, that one of the critical aspects of a culturally pluralistic democracy which has been lost over the years is our ability and willingness to engage in critical, yet civil discourse with one another. 
It is safe to say that none of us wants to see innocent lives lost or taken, none of us wants to see our cities burning,and none of us wants to see our country torn apart. So the question is, what can we do as individuals and as a community? 
First, let us vow to listen, let us vow to seek to understand our brothers and sisters with open hearts and minds. Let us commit to put politics and rhetoric aside, and find our common ground as beings of the same human race. I, as Superintendent of Schools and the district administration stand ready to work with our student leaders. We are eager to hear their thoughts and perspectives and develop ways in which their voices can be included at the table, not only in the wake of these events, but also moving forward. We stand committed to nurturing an environment in which students establish a solid foundation of self belief, worth, and voice.
Over the course of the last three months as we have lived together through this global pandemic, we have seen the power of the human spirit. We have seen first responders, front line health workers, and simply everyday people coming together giving selflessly to one another, risking their lives for one another regardless of race, culture or religion. We have seen this time and time again over the course of human history. When push comes to shove, and life is on the line, our innate care and love for one another takes over. Politics, race, religion all fade away and we simply see a fellow human being in need. Make no mistake about it, we may not be on the front lines of a battlefield, in a burning building, or swimming frantically against a riptide, metaphorically, however, as a society, that is precisely where we are. 
So what shall we do? I can only speak for myself and as the leader of the school district ask you to follow me. I will listen, I will seek to understand, and I will act each and every day with faith, hope, and love in others, in our great West Orange community, nation and world. 
I bid you peace, calm, and safety in the days ahead.
Yours in service, 
Dr. J. Scott Cascone
West Orange School District
Superintendent of Schools