Listen to the Flight Attendants

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
November 2022 News & Notes

I recently sat in on part of a meeting of the SAANYS Government Relations Committee (GRC) as it prepared for face-to-face meetings with the commissioner of education and her senior staff, as well as a meeting with the governor’s office. Members of the GRC are a particularly well-informed and committed group of people. They take their work seriously.

SAANYS asks each of its twelve regions to recommend two of its members to sit on the GRC, and each of the big five units to recommend an individual. SAANYS typically accepts the recommendations of the region, but retains final selection authority in order to maintain a balanced committee. The GRC is more effective when varied. We seek a general gender and racial balance, but much more thought goes into GRC membership. We strive to maintain a grade-level balance among elementary, middle, and high school level administrators. We want to fairly represent rural, suburban, and urban administrators, and find it helpful to have representation from a BOCES or two, a K-12 district, an essential service leader, and have a couple of GRC members with special education expertise. We may be guilty of trying to be representative of all, or mostly all members, but at the end of the day it works remarkably well.

The charge of the GRC is twofold. First, it helps form our positions regarding legislative and regulatory affairs. It does so by reacting, at our request, to a variety of proposed laws and regulations, and by identifying needs that might be met by a regulatory or legislative fix. In short, they help form our positions so that those positions are informed, vetted, and reflect the considered opinion of our membership. Second, GRC members engage in on the ground legislative and regulatory lobbying by directly making our case to those that pass the laws and regulations. They ensure the voice of those practicing administrators on the ground are heard by decision makers.

Despite the variety of districts and backgrounds represented, the commonalities of our members’ experiences and issues far outweigh the differences. There was widespread consistency regarding expressed concerns. Examples include student absenteeism, insufficient childcare services, social-emotional needs of students, student behavioral issues, unfunded mandates, and staffing issues (teachers, aides, social workers, psychologists, safety officers, bus drivers…), including staffing shortages at a variety of third party service providers. This list is not complete, but touches on a number of topics on the minds of GRC members regardless of where they are from. I can remember when the biggest staffing challenge was finding a high-quality physics teacher.

There was one other consistently expressed concern that I believe we all need to pay particular attention to, and it came up time and again. That being the mental and physical health and well being of the school administrators themselves. It is possible that your focus on others comes at a cost to yourself. Focus on others during a time when so many have needs eats up your time and becomes a source of stress, even if you are simply trying to discharge your professional responsibilities. Do not allow your professional responsibilities to become unhealthy.

It’s a statement of the obvious to say that you must first take care of yourself before you can effectively take care of others, but it occurs to me that obvious sentiment is widely ignored. It is ignored at your peril. When the oxygen masks deploy, put yours on first before helping others, or else your help will be limited.