Summit School District held professional development session where superintendent claimed that he is “drained from privileged white people” and that white people reaching out “sucks the soul” from him; point of training is to “get from woke to work”


A concerned community member provided Parents Defending Education with recordings of professional development training that Summit School District held for staff in January 2024. One recording was from Superintendent Tony Byrd. In this recording, the superintendent recommends several books from political activists, including Ibram X. Kendi. The training was provided by Jesse Tijerina who is the director of federal and state programs at the Thompson School District. Tijerina starts by stating “how do you get from woke to work.”

At one point in the session, the superintendent explains that he gets “drained from privileged white people” at “DAC” and “SAC.” He appears to be discussing members of the district’s “District/School Accountability Committee.” He continues to explain that “white people” reaching out to him “sucks the soul” out of him. He explains:

It just absolutely drains me, and I’m trying to figure out how to manage that. But it sucks the soul out of me, and those are the people that find me because they got access.

In the professional development session, Jesse Tijerina speaks of intersectionality and what this means: “When I think about even LGBTQ, my experience in supporting students that are transgender, white transgender youth, and the treatment they receive is much different than the treatment that a black transgender youth receives. Not only overtly, but systemically. So I always go back to race.”

He also tells participants they should expect discomfort:

You know, one thing that I know is that in the work that is done when reciprocity is gained, there’s the ability to, and we’re going to talk about expecting and accepting discomfort.

He further tells participants that adults should focus on race when talking to children:

You know, and I’ve been observing folks for so long, you know, and there’s a lot of times where I’ve observed somebody walking alongside a child, their child, that maybe is not of a race or a culture or an identity other than what they are. And they might say, “He’s black.” And I’ve seen the mother grab the little girl and say, “We can’t say that.” And really, what are we doing there? What is going to be the response that that child we can’t talk about that? When in reality, what a teaching moment. Yes, they’re black.

Another person who appears to be a board member from later comments speaks up and then disparages “straight white men.” This person states:

This I feel strongly about. I brought it up when we were talking about it. As a straight white male, that’s, you know, a bigger guy. I have a bigger presence, you know, and I work in a lot of rural communities and around a lot of cowboys and whatnot. But for those reasons, I believe straight white men are so comfortable being prejudice in front of them, whether it’s racist or homophobic or sexist or whatever it is. So I feel it’s my purpose to kind of shock them a little bit and push back at every one of those moments.

Jesse Tijerina then attacks “whiteness.” He states: “We’ll speak a little bit to that later on but the question is when do we give in to the convenience of whiteness? And whiteness is not necessarily color. Whiteness is behavior, practice, system.”

At one point, the superintendent speaks at the professional development training and proceeded to call his grandfather and mother “racist” before also calling himself racist:

I would say, internally, so I love my grandfather. He’s a hero. Biggest racist in the world. I love my mother. They’re both gone. She’s a feminist and a racist big time. It took me a long time to see a whole lot of things. I think the place and I think I believe that I myself am a racist at times and not a racist at other times. I believe in Kendi’s general point of view of racism and anti-racism and right after George Floyd, I sat down with a local leader in Seattle. We have a lot of leaders in Seattle that are really trying to fight good fights, much more so in my experience than Colorado and generally, although maybe I’m not in the right places.

The superintendent then brought up former President Donald Trump and showed displeasure: “My own daughters live it in and out depending on how people perceive them. You know, post-Trump would, or not post -Trump, Trump’s still around, might be back, unfortunately, in my opinion. But, you know, it was the China virus. And it was everything else that they dealt with.”

The person who appears to be a board member then later discusses “white fear” and states that children are “growing into this racism” and how it is the job of schools to prevent this. He states:

I feel like it’ll still take time because there’s already kids that are growing up that have been exposed to the racism and they weren’t born racists. You guys are talking about this, they weren’t born racists, but they’ve already like growing into this racism. And it’s like we have to just keep knocking the wall down. So as kids are born and growing up and coming up through our education system, it becomes a human rights conversation, not a race, you know, equity and all, all those things.

Jesse Tijerina also discusses how the goal is for schools to be “woke.” He states:

Man, I hear a lot of people think that they’re woke and man, they’re not woke. They’re weak. You know? It’s about from woke to work.

He also explains that “color blindness” is a bad concept that “we are all emerging from blindness.” He adds that the “insurrection” and “covid” changed how students are educated. He explains:

Leading where we don’t see or acknowledge the culture of others and we choose to ignore the descriptive experiences of students within the district who come from different cultures. So cultural blindness, color blindness was something very popular like in the 80s and the 90s of education. It’s still something that people exhibit and display. They may not say that they’re color blind, however, they behave as being color blind. I had mentioned earlier, we are all emerging from blindness.

The person who appears to be a board member appeared to attack someone for wanting to go to Washington, D.C. on January 6 and participate in an “insurrection.” When mentioning this person, the speaker appears to mock his “rural” accent:

What made me say that, what made me think of that, is in November we were planning to deliver the materials. It was due at this rural school big shipment coming in January 6th. The community member who was retired superintendent, retired board of ed president, they still do exactly what this man says. The superintendent, board president look to him for direction, and he’s just a community member. That’s a whole other conversation. I almost brought him up this morning. But anyway, the delivery of this material was expected January 6th. And in a construction meeting with 20 people, he said, “Well, it sounds like a nice day to go to Washington.” You know. Springing up. It’s a good day for an insurrection in a construction meeting. And it’s like, I’ve had to bite my tongue.

Toward the end, Jesse Tijerina describes “whiteness” as “the manner in which the customs, culture, and beliefs of white people serve as the baseline against which all groups are commonly measured.”

A presentation provided to PDE with the recordings has the date January 19, 2024. PDE was told that the presentation was part of the professional development. The document explains that the training is for “veteran and new board members.”