New Prior Lake-Savage district superintendent speaks on combating racism after multiple incidents

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The new Prior Lake-Savage area school district superintendent said he plans to combat the issue of racism head-on, following previous school year of racist incidents. 

Nya Sigin, former Prior Lake Student, was at the center of a racist video that circulated on social media last year. The video was riddled with racial slurs and attacks on mental health.

She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she’s still trying her best to move forward.

RELATED: Prior Lake student says she was target of racist attack, calls for accountability

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve moved past it, but I’m doing better,” she said.

She just started her sophomore year at Shakopee High School, after the incident made her transfer from Prior Lake.

Sigin said trying to start over has been a challenge.

“I feel like I’ll just never really get away from the whole thing, which kind of upsets me. I’m trying my best to move on from it,” Sigin said. This racist incident is one of many that happened at Prior Lake High School last school year.

“Folks painfully remember what happened. We will never forget that. That’s part of our story,” Dr. Micheal Thomas said. “I can’t undo that, but we can learn from that to really affect what happens in the future.”

Dr. Thomas, St. Paul native, is now leading the Prior Lake-Savage area school district as the superintendent.

He was recently the superintendent of the Colorado Springs district and holds 25 years of experience in public education.

He also brings personal experiences to the role.

“As a leader of color, it’s something that I’ve lived. You don’t make it to this point in your life without having to navigate a lot of racial challenges and tensions,” he said. He explained the continued efforts in the district are to create opportunities for students to be seen, valued and heard.

“We have a variety of student affinity groups particularly at the high school level. I will be scheduling time now to go out and meet with every single one of those student based groups, just so that they know they have the support and the ear of the superintendent,” he said.

Dr. Thomas said staff members are also engaging in cultural competency training.

He explained the responsibility to combat racism goes far beyond the walls of the school.

“The solutions aren’t going to just happen here at school,” Dr. Thomas said. “There’s only so much that we can influence and at the end of the day. We’ve got to make sure that we’re in sync with our community and that our community is taking a stand for what is best for our students.”

Dr. Thomas explained he’s also participating in listening and learning tours.

During these tours, conversations are held between him and community members to talk about what’s going well in the school district, while also targeting opportunities for growth.