Note from CEO Rebecca Holmes

June 2, 2020

The following post is an excerpt from an internal message to the CEI team that we would like to share publicly . 

By Rebecca Holmes, CEI President and CEO

As many of you know, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like I needed to share thoughts to address important events happening across our country. My desire to offer some kind of organized, inspirational shared reading comes in part from remembering what it was like several years ago to go to work during the horrifying uptick in murders of Black men by police officers captured on video. At the time, I was a new mom to a son with a skin color and a name that leaves him in between – safe in some settings but “othered” in just as many. We all wondered if work was a place where we could talk about the pain of the world around us and our differing understandings and experiences in that world. What I want is for CEI to be a place where we don’t turn off the rest of the world or the rest of our lives when we come to work. It’s not real or healthy for us as human beings and it’s not reflective of the ways we want schools to be for teachers, students, and families.

That said, my words are failing me and I know many of you are in equally raw and troubled states right now. That’s okay. What I can offer now is just that we have a responsibility at CEI to not only discuss this issue but to continue what you’ve been doing for several years – lean into our organization to do the hard work to address the racist root causes in our education systems. Systems produce the outcomes for which they were designed, but the power in that reality is that means they can be redesigned. Too often, our Black and Brown students have to succeed despite a system that wasn’t built to foster, see, or celebrate their excellence. We can change this.

Like many of you, I have networks of educators and civil rights advocates who are quickly amassing resources specific to young people and teachers. Reading and learning, like posting on social media, can feel insufficient in this moment. But many of us have been privileged to be far enough from racial violence that we haven’t even had to do that, which makes it a good starting point. Finally, I spent this weekend thinking a lot about something our colleague in Greeley, Jesse Tijerina, taught me. He talks about the fact that more and more people are showing they have what he calls “rally courage.” They will go to rallies. They will post on social media. But the real test, and the real thing that changes experiences for Black and Brown people in our country, is relational courage. The courage to name something when you see it in tiny, quiet, sometimes private moments. Sometimes, even, within yourself. My ask to my white-identifying colleagues is push yourself to be more relationally courageous this week.

Finally, while “rally courage” is insufficient, I want to share with you that I have been proud to see education leaders we work with take something of a stand on social media this weekend. While we won’t take credit for their mindsets or their courage, their posts are full of language about work they’ve done to deepen their empathy with students and families in their communities who have been held furthest from opportunity. There is plenty of debate about how we dismantle the systems that have perpetuated these inequities, but what matters now is what we commit to rebuilding. CEI will be there, arm and arm with those who are committed to a better world for every student in Colorado.

Thank you for being part of making that possible.