A Letter to the Old Trail Community

The following letter from Head of School Sarah Johnston was sent to the OTS community as a follow-up regarding the events surrounding the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Sent on Tuesday, June 9:

Dear Old Trail Community,

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was suffocated by a police officer in Minneapolis while three other officers looked on. It’s a horrific image that has played over in my mind many times since the video of his last minutes went viral. As our Black families, alumni and employees at Old Trail know all too well, George Floyd has joined a long list of Black men and women who have been killed as a result of our country’s history of shameful systemic racism. 

During the past couple of weeks, I have given much thought to Old Trail’s role in this and how we, as an Old Trail community, can make a difference. History is watching all of us. What we choose to say – or not say – and what we choose to do will shape who we become as a nation. 

To that end, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: Black lives matter. 

To our Black families, I won’t pretend to fully understand the emotion and frustration created by recent events. Nor can I imagine the impact that living with a sense of fear and oppression has on you, your families and your friends. I will also never know what it’s like to have “the talk” with your young sons and daughters about what they will face in this country due to the color of their skin. 

But I want to be direct in saying that your community at Old Trail sees you, hears you, and stands with you. We are here to listen, to learn, and to turn reflection into action. We are committed to increasing our instruction on diversity, equity and social justice. Over the summer, we will develop an action plan that will address curriculum, faculty professional development, forums on race and partnerships with leaders in our Black community. Additionally, we will continue to explore how we can make Old Trail an attractive destination for Black faculty, staff and families.

A friend recently wrote, “As we struggle with difficult topics we might not always get it right but when we don't, we can admit our mistakes and correct our course of action.”
These past several days have made me realize that our previous response was not enough. It’s not enough to merely be an ally. Moving forward, we will invest the time and resources to move our discussions and actions forward.
That work starts now.
Old Trail School is an independent day school (toddler through grade eight) located in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.