An open letter to our Community

How did we get to this point at Richland 44?  I know I have asked myself that very question more times than I can count over these last several months.  I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves the same.   The honest answer is…..I don’t know that any of us truly knows anymore.  

Here’s what I do know:

 I know that I’m TIRED.  I’m tired of feeling angry and hurt.  I’m tired of seeing the news media’s continuous attacks on Richland 44 and the community I love so much.  I’m angry that they have been allowed to portray this community and this school district how they see fit for the sole purpose of “selling a story” with no regard for facts and the impact and pain that it is causing our community and our families but more importantly our KIDS. 

I know that I’m SAD.    I’m sad every time I look at my kids’ faces and see the fear and the sadness in their eyes because all they want more than anything is to be kids and have fun with their friends and just be “normal”, whatever that is.  I’m sad knowing that every time we go out in public, we find ourselves asking “Should we wear our Richland 44 gear?”  “Will we get shamed or ridiculed?”   “Will we get that “look”?”   The answer, sadly, is “YES”.  It happens and continues to happen.   I’m sad that I walk around this community feeling like I’m walking on eggshells around friends and people I care deeply about.  I want it to stop.   Don’t you? 

We are BETTER than this Richland 44.  Our kids deserve better, we deserve better and I believe in my heart and soul that the only way we can fix this is if we all come together and unite as a community.  We need to stop hurting one another and start loving one another again.   

Our family moved to Colfax and into the Richland 44 School District in the fall of 2005.  The decision to move our family here was an easy one.  The people and community were amazingly kind and welcomed us with open arms.  The school district was regarded as one of the BEST.  A top notch teaching staff with a passion and love for education and truly wonderful souls who deeply care about our kids and are committed to helping them succeed in whatever path they choose in life.  What a gift our teachers are! God Bless you all.

I believe that the above still holds true.  Richland 44 is still an amazing school district with top notch teachers and we still have a wonderful community of folks who care about one another.  But, somehow we’ve lost our way and we need to find our way back.  Our kids are depending on all of us….parents, teachers, community members…our children need the adults to STEP UP and help all of us heal.  This toxic environment is only HURTING our KIDSL.

The last several months in the Richland 44 School District have been some of the most painful times imaginable.   Our community is divided.  Our school district and teaching staff is divided.  Friendships have been damaged and possibly destroyed.  Grown adults yelling and lashing out at one another and no willingness to just take a breath and LISTEN to one another.  TALK to one another.  Taking a moment to EMPATHIZE and show MUTUAL RESPECT for one another.  It saddens me more than I am able to put into words. 

We can’t go back and change what has happened.  But, my hope is that we can ALL show one another some compassion and forgiveness and try to move forward and heal TOGETHER. 

We need Leadership at Richland 44.  That has been evident for quite some time.  We have an opportunity to now move on and do that.  May we all continue to support and empathize with our teaching staff and students as they continue to go through so much change and unsettling times at R44.  We need strong and effective leaders with a clear purpose and vision.  We can get there but we all need to STEP UP. 

We have an investigation that has been plaguing this school district for months and it has affected, hurt, and forever changed the lives of kids and families. I often think back to the evening of January 22nd and the events that unfolded in the high school library that night with a group of upset, hurt and concerned parents.  I often ask myself what I could have done differently in that room to engage in conversation with fellow parents and friends to try to work through the concerns and anger.  Could we have asked more questions of one another? Could we have all tried more to LISTEN to one another?  Could we all have tried to UNDERSTAND each other’s perspectives and tried to TALK through concerns?  Could we have brought our children in a room with us parents and participate in OPEN and HONEST dialogue?  Could we have avoided all of this PAIN and ANGER?  Is there a way that these families can still do that?     

My hope and prayer is that the answer to these questions is “yes”.  My hope is that families can find a way to come together and TRY to speak to one another with their kids and LISTEN to each other, be open to FORGIVENESS, and COMPASSIONATE toward one another. 

My prayer is that we can all find it in our hearts to CHOOSE KINDNESS.  We are all parents who love our children and want the very best for our kids.  We will do whatever is necessary to protect them and make sure that they are ok.  These are kids who just want to be with their friends, go to school and have fun and learn in a safe and welcoming environment.  Shouldn’t we all want to work together to make that happen for our kids?  Don’t they deserve that?  Have mistakes been made?  YES.   Do we need to learn from them and make some changes to make sure that we are better and that our kids are better and understand expectations?  MOST DEFINITELY.    I also believe that people are genuinely GOOD. 

My friends, somehow we have got to find a way to let go of the blame and anger and constant desire to punish one another.   Instead, we need to work together so that we can get back to what I believe we all want.  A united community filled with compassionate and caring folks, friends and families who love and support one another, an amazing school district filled with wonderful teachers and a fun and loving environment where our kids can be kids and are able to receive the very best education possible.  My prayer for all is that we seek more LOVE and KINDNESS and let go of the hurt and anger.    

With Love,
Jody Lingen                       (Please click on the link.  Listen and enjoy)

One thought on “An open letter to our Community

  1. Well said Jody! “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil and upheaval is for good men & women to do nothing…” This has been quoted in various ways throughout history and I believe is appropriate to be quoted yet again. Just going along, being complacent, or perhaps having too much misguided trust may have gotten us to where we currently are; however, it is time to move forward and do what is needed to bring our communities and school district back to their place of respect and honor and where we want our kids and grandkids to learn and grow. Let’s take a collective deep breath and work on respecting and loving our neighbors once again and let our kids get back to doing what they do best – be kids!


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