Student Section Band

From District, High School, and Board Leadership:

At every school board meeting, the mission statement of the Ames Community School District is read aloud. The moment is often overlooked and perceived as a formality before immediately moving on to official business. Let’s face it, these statements from all companies are word-smithed to be non-controversial and uniform in their meaning. They are great for websites but most of us never revisit them.

In the wake of social media chatter and conversations about our high school band, let’s take a moment to revisit the mission statement of the Ames Community School District. There is some profound meaning in it.

Our mission statement reads as follows:

The mission of the Ames Community Schools is to ensure that all learners develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal esteem necessary to grow in and shape a changing society.

We have some of the best teachers in the State of Iowa who academically prepare our students based on an established curriculum to become college and career ready. In between lessons of mathematics and reading, our teachers and staff are also giving our students opportunities to collaborate on projects, communicate with each other, and problem solve.

There is no blueprint for how to help students navigate a “changing society.” That can only happen through experience and when situations arise.

Last week, our student leaders showed great resolve when they came together, expressed their feelings and personal opinions with each other, and came together with a solution regarding the student section theme that they all supported. They found that coming together as an Ames High student body was more important than letting politics impact their football game and senior night. Later that night, some students followed a pattern from across the country and decided to not participate in the national anthem as a way to silently protest inequality. They stood in the student section with the rest of our student body and linked arms in a show of unity for Ames High.

If you were at the game, you can attest that there was no fanfare surrounding it or boos from the crowd.

Across the country, and within the Ames community, we’re divided on this topic. Some find it a disrespectful tactic to those who have served in our military, while others see it as a nonviolent free speech stance unrelated to patriotism. Based simply on the sheer number of comments on some social media posts, we don’t anticipate finding a common ground any time soon.

As a school district, and at Ames High, we want to take their high school experience as an opportunity to build leaders. As administrators and teachers, we want to be a voice in the process, not the voice whenever possible. Whether you applaud our students or think they should be disciplined, consider the opposite side for a moment.

Over the past week, we saw our students engaged with how to improve their school. They were active and did it the right way: by communicating their feelings, and collaborating together to come up with a solution. They didn’t resort to violence, and they didn’t resort to one-sided arguments.

When we look back at our mission statement, it is these moments that help ensure “that all learners develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal esteem necessary to grow in and shape a changing society.”

Our students will be encouraged to consider the other side. Often times, especially with highly politicized topics, intentions and perceptions do not always align with everyone’s values, and we must understand that before making decisions.

Let’s be in this together.