A North Texas school district is tackling a tough year that’s included its own tragedy, the disruption of normal life and social unrest across the nation.
Community I.S.D. in rural Collin County created a video message of unity that challenges adults to leave a better world for our children.
Community I.S.D. set out to show what community really means, even in trying times.
“I wanted you to see that we are all unified,” said Superintendent Dr. Roosevelt Nivens in a nearly four-minute-long video uploaded on YouTube.
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Nivens gathered area pastors, local leaders, school board members and law enforcement leaders to send a message of unity.
“The idea woke me up in the middle of the night,” he said. “Our society is going through an awful lot right now.”
The school district with approximately 2,500 students was united in grief last fall when four students were killed in a car crash.
The district came together again when COVID-19 hit.
Online teaching has been difficult at times because of weaker internet access throughout the community, Nivens said.
The district rallied to deliver 150,000 meals to students using district school buses.
“Because they didn’t have a way to get up here and get food,” said Nivens. “And we know that a lot of our kids depend on the school system for those basic needs to be met.”
And now, Community I.S.D. finds itself coming together again as the fight for racial equality intensifies.
Nivens said at the heart of the issues the country is facing, “we just forgot to be kind to each other, and we have forgotten to embrace each other for our differences and once we do that I think everything will solve itself.”
In the video, the district’s first Black superintendent said change starts from within.
“I want us all to be very self-reflective,” he said. “If you want to see change, we all have to look in the mirror first to see what part of us needs to change. We have to have a very self-reflective conversation.”
Nivens became emotional during his online speech.
“It’s very important to me,” he said pausing for a moment. “It’s very important to me that the adults get it right. Because our kids are watching us.”
The superintendent has been known to show his emotions before. This was no different.
School board president Mike Shepard was among the leaders standing in support of Nivens for the video.
“Came from his heart,” said Shepard of Nivens’ emotional message. “Guy’s got the biggest heart you can imagine.”
Shepard describes Nivens as ‘instrumental’ in bringing the community together over the years and agrees with the message.
“If we treated others like we wanted to be treated, regardless of the situation, I think we would be better off,” said Shepard.
Nivens said his emotional response is because “this is my life’s purpose and my life calling. I look at it as a ministry and I want to make sure that every young person that is under my leadership feels valued, they feel important and they are successful.”
The district leader said he sometimes shares his own personal experiences as a Black man with students.
“I’m an old football player. I’m 6’5” and I’m pushing a lot of weight so when I walk, I cast a big shadow and that intimidates people,” he said. “If I didn’t dress like this then some places that I go it is intimidating to people. And then once they realize that I’m an educated man. I have a doctorate. I have a great job and I love Jesus and love my family. I’ve been married 20 years then it’s different. But people have to get to know me and that’s why I’m big on relationships.”
His goal, Nivens said, and that of everyone in the video, is to build a community with one goal in mind: “That we do everything we can do make sure this world is better.”