Some Things Never Change

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
September 2021 News & Notes

We are now at that point in time on the calendar when schools are opening doors to returning students. This is typically a time of excitement, high hopes, and high energy. However, we all know that this reopening is not like others. Staff and students alike are returning from a summer unlike others, after a school year unlike others.

Educators deal with challenges as a matter of course. Even under the best of circumstances, there are students who struggle or who endure difficult personal circumstances. There are staff that don’t develop as hoped, programs that are underfunded, positions that remain unfilled. There are always budgetary constraints.

This year is different in many ways. There is widespread concern among educators that students may have suffered adverse effects from the non-standard instructional environment of last year. I suspect there is an increased sensitivity among staff to being aware of possible social-emotional manifestations among students, as well as staff, in the coming year.

The scale of the pandemic is daunting. It is worldwide and can enter any building in any school district despite best efforts at mitigation. Circumstances are constantly evolving, such as the status of vaccines, virus variants, government response to changing circumstances, and the emotional reaction of some to steps designed to protect and improve the public health.

There is nothing wrong with public debate, or advocacy on behalf of ones’ children, but in too many places civility has been displaced by anger and accusation. School board members, superintendents, and administrators have had to absorb public vitriol while they struggle to manage a public health crisis outside their areas of expertise, while the advice of those with the appropriate expertise is often disregarded. It is exhausting and disheartening.

To a far greater extent than is the norm, I think many enter this school year with a lesser feeling of control; a reduced ability to manage events. I believe this is exacerbated by the evolution of events referenced above. When events that directly impact schools are in constant motion, focus and stability become challenged.

Clarity of purpose should be maintained. At the end of the day the mission of educators is unchanged. That at least is a constant. Provide the safest environment and the best education that you can to all children. Leaders need to support staff with their daily responsibilities to achieve those ends. Those objectives have not changed, even if the environment in which you operate has become much more difficult.