I wanted to take a second to acknowledge the moment we are in as a district. I am so grateful for our educators and staff that have gone above and beyond for so long and I am so saddened that we can’t offer them an end date to when things will ease up because so much of what is happening with the pandemic and staff shortages are beyond our control. We will continue to focus on the things we can control, and have worked collaboratively with our unions to adjust expectations wherever we can. We have instituted numerous opportunities in the past couple months to hear from our staff about what they need and how we can best support them and we hope to continue to stay in conversation.
I think it is fair to say that everyone is not ok. Students, educators, parents, administrators and board members, all of us are operating with very little left in the tank. We have used all of our bandwidth during this pandemic on fear, uncertainty, being flexible, and patience amidst so much grief and loss.
We so desperately wanted as normal a school year as possible, but the pandemic continues and the national staffing shortage puts unbelievable pressure on our educational system across the nation and in our district. It has been an all hands-on deck situation for a long time and I know we are all exhausted. It is difficult to problem solve daily with situations that long term educators and administrators have never seen. I know we are all sick of the word unprecedented and yet it continues to be the right word to describe the decisions being made.
I am worried about the mental health of our staff as they struggle to navigate working with students and colleagues who are struggling so much. I am worried about the mental health of our students who are clearly struggling to transition back to in person school and all that entails in a pandemic. I am worried about the mental health of our families as they are forced to respond to unforeseen changes in our schedule and the uncertainty of quarantines and exposures.
I believe all of this is contributing to an environment where inaccurate info spreads like wildfire. It is natural when folks are exhausted, frustrated and stressed that the intensity of our interactions increase. I have been shocked and dismayed by how many times a concern has been raised and when there has been further investigation, the facts of the situation are nothing like what was presented. I urge our educators and parents and caregivers to pause before sharing information broadly that you can’t verify, to consider the hyberbolic language you are using, and the assumptions that folks involved do not care or that nothing is being done. I am particularly concerned with the racism and white supremacy that is underpinning so many of the communications with our Black administrators and principals. Please consider the impact of your language and actions.
We have to recognize that everyone is working incredibly hard. We need to problem solve together and that is made harder when we lead with rage. We will have to hold folks accountable along the way, and I am not suggesting that there aren’t problems where outrage is absolutely warranted. We just have reached a point where the default setting on all concerns is rage and I think it has a significant cost for everyone’s wellbeing.
We have to address these culture and climate issues for us to be able to prioritize the work that needs to be done in our district. I moved around a lot when I was younger and I attended 4 schools in 6 years that were not aligned in their curriculum. I have some gaps in my understanding of punctuation, fractions and decimals because of this. These gaps were created by failed systems and I was fortunate that I had tons of other resources that mitigated these learning losses for me. My experience is nothing compared to what students coming off 18 months of remote learning are experiencing. As much as I would love to take more off our educators’ and staffs’ list, we must also recognize the nature of education. There are real children impacted by every decision we make. Children who will only be in Kindergarten or 3rd grade or 7th grade once. Before the pandemic even started, our schools had been failing Black and Brown children. We cannot continue on as we were before. We must innovate, change practice and try new things. Change is always hard but even harder in a time of strain and stress, and yet to proceed without change results in us accepting racial disparity for our students. To not push for better is to say that the experience of our Black and Brown families do not matter. We will continue to make mistakes as we work to figure out the pace in which we can move forward, but our response to recognizing that we can’t always go as fast as we want cannot be to stay where we have been. We must work collectively to find a way to improve our climate and morale but not ignore the urgency of the moment. Our students are counting on us.
You are correct in stating ‘things are not OK’. We have a school board and Superintendent intent on implementing the most extreme and radical Racial Equity programs (to the point of it being like a cult or religion) using policies which blame all the achievement gap solely on structural racism and in a way which will result in lower standards for all. There are a myriad of reasons why black and brown students underachieve and these should be addresses but your ‘equity’ policies such as ‘no homework for middle school students because some kids can’t do homework at home’ will only lower the bar for all, not fix the underlying issue. Furthermore, the school board seems to want to brand any criticism as ‘White Superiority’ and in effect ‘cancel it’. We saw evidence of that already when we read the letters to Dr. Horton (published in the newspaper) from concerned parents who were inexcusably branded as ‘white supremacists’ just for disagreeing with policy. In any other job, the Board and Superintendent would have been (and should have been) fired. From what I can tell, most of the parents I know have had enough of it and are either moving or going to private schools. It’s a shame as Evanston will suffer if people leave because they perceive the high property taxes paid no longer equate to high quality schooling.
Comments are closed.