An Abdication of Responsibility

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
August 2021 News & Notes

After the attorney general’s (AG) report finding that Governor Cuomo committed acts of sexual harassment, the pressure for Governor Cuomo to resign continued to build until his announcement on August 10 that he would step aside. It seems to me to be an appropriate result. Since the issuance of the AG’s report, there has been a disconnect between the demands of governance and the demands of trying to manage the news cycle. Nowhere was that more apparent than in educational circles.

After a summer of increasing calls from educators to the Governor’s Office and the New York State Department of Health for pandemic-related guidance on reopening schools, it was recently announced that there would be no new guidance released by the state. Approximately one month before schools are to reopen, the state, which managed the pandemic with a variety of mandated controls since March of 2020, essentially told the schools that they are on their own to figure things out. It simply walked away from trying to manage a generational threat to public health. Educators, however, do not have that option.

Commissioner Rosa responded by urging the New York State Department of Health to exercise existing statutory authority to issue guidance on what is a public health crisis. The expertise needed is medical and not educational, but it appears no such guidance will be provided by New York State, contrary to its practice over the past year and a half. It is unclear if a Hochul administration will try to change that, but the timing of events makes it unlikely that state guidance will be issued before school opens. Cuomo’s resignation is effective fourteen days from August 10.

As pointed out by Commissioner Rosa, there exists guidance on masking and distancing issued by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is left to school boards and administrators at all levels to interpret and implement the guidance issued at the national level. It is a time for leaders to lead. At the state level, we have seen what I consider to be an abdication of responsibility as the governor elevated efforts to save his position and defend against numerous allegations of inappropriate behavior above the needs of the schools of New York State. School children, staff, and others took a backseat to an effort to survive politically. That alone is a shameful legacy.