A message from WAPS Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit

Below is a message sent from Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit to students and families in Winona Area Public Schools in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the reaction it has sparked across the state.

Dear Winona Area Public Schools community,

The horrific death of George Floyd has led to an emotional outpouring of frustration, despair and anger. As your superintendent, I felt it was imperative to reach out to all members of our school community.

As an institution in Winona for more than 150 years, we acknowledge that we are culpable in the systemic racism that has plagued our community for generations, resulting in unforgivable inequities. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in Minneapolis more than 50 years ago, “our summers of riots are caused by our winters of delay.”

We pledge to wait no more.

We are dedicated to disrupting these systems of racism as we pursue a journey of equity to create a culture where all are safe, valued and validated. Our core values of excellence, kindness, respect, honesty and responsibility require us to be sincere about what our families — all of our families — need and deserve. 

Our students and families of color must be wondering why this keeps happening again and again and again in this country. For too long, you have received the clear message — in moments that go viral and moments that happen every day, multiple times a day — that your life is less valued than others. 

We don’t have the answers. As a white female superintendent that leads a predominantly white district administrative team and staff, we cannot pretend to know how this feels. But we see you. We value you. We want you to be free to be yourself. You will have a voice here.

While the current status of distance learning prevents our staff from providing in-person support, school social workers, counselors and teachers are available. Please consider reaching out to them. 

The Minnesota Department of Education has shared several resources with us, and we are sharing some of them with you in the hopes they can assist you in discussing these events with your family. Please click on this link for more information.

We are committed to finding ways to consistently elevate all voices in our school district. We are dedicated to addressing our own implicit bias to improve as educators and advocates for all of our students, and that starts at the top with the district administrative team. We seek to develop relationships with those in our school community who have for too long been treated with indifference.

We know these are just words, and they will ring hollow until you see results. We are asking that you hold us accountable. 

We wish for peace, justice and ongoing conversation. We hope others in the community will stand with us, share with us, and walk with us as we embrace our role to nurture a Winona that is more inclusive of all.

Thank you, and please be safe.

Dr. Annette K. Freiheit
Winona Area Public Schools