November 7, 2019
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Each year in October, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) celebrates National Principals Month. Part of the celebration includes inviting local, state, and/or federal leaders to shadow a principal for a day so they can gain a better understanding of the challenges educators face in our schools. This has proven to be a successful program and an eye-opener for many.
This year, I extended an invitation to several congressional leaders to visit Georgetown Middle/High School. Many were excited about the opportunity but unable to commit. Fortunately, Congressman Seth Moulton was scheduled to be back in Massachusetts to participate in Veterans Day ceremonies and was able to dedicate time to visit GMHS. Being a US Veteran from the Iraqi war, we both saw this as an opportunity for him to shadow a principal, learn more about the inner workings of GMHS, and address our 9th-12th students about the meaning and purpose of Veterans Day.
During the Congressman’s shadow visit, I shared with him the importance of developing a school culture around Social and Emotional Learning and the challenges public schools face around the rise in student mental illness. He was thankful for the opportunity to learn more about these important topics and was impressed with how GMHS has tackled these challenges while remaining committed to all students’ success.
In addition to his shadow visit, Congressman Moulton was generous with his time and spoke to our students. He addressed the 9th-12th classes on the meaning of Veterans Day, the importance of community service, different ways students could get involved in the community, his personal experience and challenges of high school, college, being in the military, and the unusual path he took to becoming a Massachusetts Congressman. He also complimented GMHS for taking on the challenge of a Community Service Learning Project focused around diversity, inclusion, and acceptance for all. At the end of his speech, he gave a quick shout-out to the GHS Varsity Boys Soccer team for making the tournament. Unfortunately, the outcome was not in our favor but our team played an outstanding game.
At the end of his presentation, students were allowed to ask the Congressman questions. I am proud to say our students asked several provoking questions in a respectful manner about our current political climate, presence in the Middle East, Governor Baker’s vaping ban, Pledge of Allegiance, how to start a career in politics, along with other challenging questions. The Congressman responded honestly and directly while at the same time, made it clear he is sharing one perspective and encouraged students to form their own and continue to speak with a strong voice, something we encourage at GMHS and part of our mission statement.
At the conclusion of the assembly, Congressman Moulton spent time with students to answer remaining questions and to his surprise, signed autographs on t-shirts, cell phones, scrap paper, or anything else they could find. I sincerely appreciate Congressman Moulton taking time out of his next appointment to spend more time with our students.
I also want to acknowledge that It was brought to my attention yesterday that there were some concerns raised via social media about some of the Congressmen’s responses, specifically around the Pledge of Allegiance and the current state of politics in our country, particularly the president. While he referred to the historical significance of the evolution of the Pledge of Allegiance from the time of the founding fathers until now, his reference to the separation of church and state was in the context of the founding fathers and their belief that there should be a strict separation. This was also the case in the way he referenced the historical context of the words “ under God”. His comments were not intended to diminish the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance but he holds these words to be very important and significant. In reference to concerns about “ trashing” the president, I will offer that in his response he referred to the importance of leaders at the top, from the president to the principal, being able to unite people around a common purpose and he acknowledged that good leaders have that as their focus. He did acknowledge that he does not think that, in his opinion, this is currently at play in our country from his personal opinion. I acknowledge and appreciate that some might have taken exception to this comment.
I was also made aware that some people think there should have been a balanced representation of democrats and republicans to be sure that students heard from “ both sides”. While I am happy to invite a leader from the Republican Party, this activity was not designed to be about politics. Rather, it was in celebration of the importance of Veteran’s Day from the perspective of a member of the military and the opportunity to speak to students about the value of community service using his own personal journey as an example. While some of the student’s questions were pointed, I can assure you that the intention was not to play politics. I can understand how people might have reacted to his comments based on their own perceptions and beliefs and that is why I am sending out this correspondence as a way to hopefully clarify the intentions and perhaps provide a context.
The Congressman’s visit was well-received by multiple rounds of applause and thank yous from our students, faculty, and staff. I would like to send a sincere thank you to Congressman Moulton for taking the time out of his busy schedule to learn more about the good work we are doing at Georgetown Middle/High School and for sharing his story.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions. I am happy to speak with you further. I can be reached at 978-352-5790 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.