Dear A+ Educators, Administrators, Friends and Partners,
This is a time like no other in our lives. Despite the challenges we are all facing every day, this is also a time that is bringing out the best in many people--especially in our teachers and school and district leaders. We are incredibly thankful for all of you! A+ is proud to play a small role in this by partnering with you and supporting you as you work tirelessly for our children.
When the pandemic erupted, we immediately began to communicate with our A+ network to assess needs and share resources. Over the first few months, we listened a lot and began to develop tools for supporting the work of our schools. The A+ Talk series was born, quickly followed by A+ U. We rethought our onsite professional development and came up with a menu of online options for schools. Through all of this, we were repeatedly brought back to two important thoughts: The A+ Essentials continue to provide a strong and necessary foundation for our work and the work of our schools, and the A+ network is a highly valuable part of being A+.
The death of George Floyd and the protests across the state and nation in response have again brought into stark relief the inequities that exist in our society. The North Carolina Arts Council is currently pursuing the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with increased resolve and urgency. A+ Schools of N.C. has been focused on DEI for the past year or two with a particular goal of increasing the diversity of our A+ Fellows team to better represent the staff and students of our schools across N.C. and the nation.
In addition, we have turned our focus to the connections between social and emotional learning (SEL) and DEI, and we are working hard to embed these important components into our work. We’ve partnered with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to help create the SEL guidance documents, and we are providing professional development for our A+ Fellows to strengthen their knowledge and use of both DEI and SEL in their A+ work. We are also continuing to learn from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), with whom N.C. DPI has a collaborating partnership and who is also working to connect their SEL competencies and resources with DEI.
A+ Schools continues to listen and learn as we look for ways to push DEI and SEL forward. We believe this journey is necessary and vitally important to undertake. It is our hope that you will be on that journey with us.
We are excited to be celebrating the 25th birthday of A+ Schools! Through the years we have weathered a lot of transition and change in both the A+ network and in the educational field we live and work in, and we've had wonderful opportunities to work with amazing educators and inspiring school leaders who are providing creative and engaging places to teach and learn. The strength, sacrifice and compassion around us right now is extraordinary. We know we will all emerge from this stronger and more resilient in the future, and A+ will be there with love, resources, support and connections as we look forward to the next 25 years!
With respect and gratitude,
Michelle Mazan Burrows
Director, A+ Schools of North Carolina