It’s an exciting, yet challenging time as we get ready to welcome students for the start of the 20/21 academic year.

The beginning of September always revitalizes our community with energy.  Of course, this year will be like none before as we face the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. None of us anticipated – or would have chosen our current circumstances, but we have adapted so students can continue their education.  While the decision to pursue both in-person and remote modes of instruction has brought mixed emotions, we believe it is the best way to improve educational outcomes while at the same time protecting the health and safety of our students and staff.

John Donahoe, President and CEO of Nike, summed up the challenge facing every leader these days. As one might expect from a company whose long-time slogan has been “Just do it,” John’s advice during a crisis is equally compelling: “Just showing up…being authentic, being transparent.”  Our goal since this pandemic started back in March is exactly that - - be as authentic as we can be while sharing as much relevant information in as timely a manner as possible. 

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During that same leadership session, several key principles that leaders must embrace were discussed. 

  • Anticipate what lies ahead: we need to be grounded in what’s really happening today
  • Navigate: course-correct in real time
  • Communicate: continually; communication is where leadership lives and breathes—especially today
  • Listen: to what you don’t want to hear
  • Learn: fail fast, learn faster; never stop learning

We as a district have done all of these since the pandemic’s beginning… and we are committed to continuous improvement as we know we can always do better.

That said, we sit here three weeks before the start of the 20/21 school year with levels of complexity, uncertainty, and anxiety like we have never seen before in a school setting. 

As many of you are likely aware the Governor’s guidance regarding students returning to an in-person school experience was updated yet again yesterday. 

The Superintendent will be sharing her recommendation of Plan B this evening.  Some believe Plan B is the most appropriate return-to-school plan for a community like ours, others don’t agree – they either believe Plan A is better solution, or that Plan C is the direction we should pursue.  I have talked with countless parents, educators as well as medical professionals over the past several weeks and the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that not everyone agrees on what’s the best way to educate students for the upcoming school year.  What’s critically important, and something we can’t lose sight of is that it's not about being fully "right" or fully "wrong" because there is no hard and fast "right" or "wrong" here.  It's about optimizing our students' educational outcomes and doing so within an acceptable level of risk in this current environment.  That's the absolute best that we can collectively strive for.

Again, I know we can get through this if we hold ourselves accountable and are respectful of each other. These are extraordinary – but temporary – times. Let us work collectively, so we can look back on these days as a time when our community came together as one for the benefit of all.