As the 2019–20 school year comes to a close, I think we all would agree it was an experience like no other. I applaud you for the job that you have done, and for the commitment and drive being demonstrated toward a safe reopening. We know many challenges lie ahead, but those challenges are being met head-on with sustained professionalism.
In many ways your actions have been akin to those of first responders. The conversion to distance-learning had to be done immediately, despite the many obstacles. Becoming a community resource for food, childcare, and device (and sometimes hotspot) distribution was frequently not without personal risk. Efforts to engage those children falling through the cracks were both ongoing and innovative. Undoubtedly there are exceptions, but on the whole professional educators were faced with an ongoing emergency for which there was no game plan, and rose to the occasion. From the perspective of someone on the sidelines, it has been genuinely impressive.
The SAANYS team has also pivoted to greater utilization of technology. We have engaged in distance collective-bargaining and legal representation. Our SAANYS Connects professional learning, open to all and free to all, provides a platform to connect with colleagues across the state on topical matters of professional concern, and our daily email helps keep our members current on national and state events, with a focus on SED issues that impact the professional lives of many.
We all know our environment has not been altered by COVID alone. The economic fallout has had adverse consequences for many in our school communities and in our own families as well. For some, these consequences will be long-term, and we have to be sensitive to the impact of that, without allowing ourselves to lose sight of our larger objectives.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of the police and the resulting protests have exposed and highlighted the history of systemic racism in our country that we all knew was there, but would look away from. The frequency of disturbing attacks on people of color and the widespread response makes continued silence unacceptable. This reality will factor into both instruction and assessment of the social-emotional wellness of students and staff in the fall. Disease, economic fallout, and even justifiable social upheaval will be traumatizing to many, and educators need to again be prepared to respond.
There is no perfect response to any crisis. Fast decisions made in a rapidly changing environment will sometimes miss the mark, but I have not seen any unwillingness on the part of SAANYS members to assume leadership and face down the myriad of problems with which you were presented without notice. Realistically, going forward, you will continue to encounter changes and unknowns, at least in the short term. There will be unanticipated challenges, bumps in the road, and long hours ahead. After watching your performance this past spring, I am fully confident that we are in very good hands going into the fall, regardless of the conditions we will face.
Thank you for what you have done, and continue to do. Have a safe and healthy summer.