At this year’s Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando (FETC), three superintendents from distinctly different areas of the country—Texas, California and Ohio— gave attendees their takeaways from the 2020 school year based on situations that they dealt with beyond figuring out how to keep learning going once schools shut down— many of which led to policies and procedures that continue to work today.
Here are some of the things they shared:
Dr. Scott Muri, Superintendent of Ector County ISD, Texas: “We didn’t have options but to remain closed as the entire state closed down. At the school level parents needed to hear the voices of the principals and the superintendents to make them feel calm, and provide reassurance that we were all going to be OK. So we used a variety of communication strategies. We created a live broadcast, we call it ECISD Live, and we still do it today. We broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on a variety of topics. One of the most interesting things we learned is that a lot of parents who are Spanish-speaking in our district weren’t getting this. After discovering that they listen to Spanish radio, we started broadcasting there, and that continues to be a strategy for us.”
David Miyashiro, Superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District, California: “What I learned is that our parents, they are the essential workforce—firefighters, nurses, Marines, Air Force and Navy—people that had to work. In April 2020 we had to reopen our schools for childcare so those people could go to work. We didn’t know about COVID in March 2020; it was scary, didn’t know how it spread, so we went to work even though we were told by the governor we had to shelter in place, unless you were essential workers. I went to the print shop and asked them to print badges saying that the teachers were essential workers and had permission to go to work. The print shop guy asked me, ‘Are you allowed to do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ But we did it. I called them all and said, ‘On your workstation is a badge that says you have permission to travel. Please come in and clean up your workspace and your classroom, we’re going to turn them into childcare centers.’ Because we couldn’t open schools, but we could open as childcare. So we helped every employee to leave the house. That early opportunity to get out psychologically helped our employees feel comfortable to come to work.”
Matthew Miller, Superintendent of Lakota Local School District, Ohio: “We know a lot of kids only eat when they come to school. But we weren’t allowed to bring them back. So we organized food distribution centers to take care of those kids and those kids of our first responders. We also partnered with law enforcement and did welfare checks on the kids who had ‘disappeared.’ And we figured out how to connect our kids. We bolstered our 1:1 rollout of device distribution.
“The other thing I want to say is, remember when all this hit, and during March, April and May of 2020 everyone raved about how awesome teachers were? What the hell happened? They’re still awesome. We need to recognize this.”