I always thought I was a strong leader, but nothing has tested my leadership like COVID-19. It has tested the leadership of every school administrator in a way that is different from everything else. In a matter of days, our school was completely morphed – the information we received was changed by the minute and given to us in pieces, and the clarity of our decisions and communication we shared was imperative.
I lead both the technology and personnel teams at my district. We are rural and have scaled back our technology efforts with students to focus on building a reliable, safe, secure network for staff. Our small team engaged immediately into supporting staff as they turned to digital platforms for instruction. As support for teachers has begun to slow down, we are turning to the office staff who are also doing remote work. Not only are schools doing instructional work from home, but in many cases, they are hiring, procuring, doing payroll, preparing contracts, and completing support functions in remote ways. Technology teams are supporting students, updating web pages, thinking of ways to do everything online, and being there for staff who are frustrated and need help. If you have not reached out to your tech department to thank them, you should. They have likely worked non-stop since this started.
On the personnel side, we have supported staff with the development of work from home agreements, understanding how COVID sick days work, and working with staff who have pre-existing conditions. Staff has questions about evaluations and 301. We are doing this in the midst of contract and hiring season. Our work has not stopped, and our staff knows that someone in this office has an answer for them.
I have worked side by side with our transportation supervisor who has made sure our buses are routed to deliver work to families who are not able to get to school to pick the work up. Our food service supervisor has updated our plans daily to expand food service to meet the needs of more and more students. Her team has served students food daily through this all. Our special services director has ensured that students continue to have all their needs met. She also serves as our safety coordinator. She has been in constant communication with county and city officials. Our principals have worked with us as plans have changed and communicated back to staff and supported families worried about graduation, childcare, and the future. Our Superintendent and business director are working side by side with the state and county to bring in critical information for our future.
As I look at the adjustments that teachers and staff have made, I am amazed and proud to be an educator. This change has reminded me of two very important facts. One, in times of crisis who you choose to lead matters. Leaders will impact districts, schools, and students when times are good, but they will have critical impact in a crisis. Choose leaders who can manage a crisis well. And, schools are made up of teachers on the front lines and a strong staff of ancillary personnel who support the system and the student as a whole. Without that support, a school can’t succeed, especially in tough times.
I know of no time like today. I thank you all for the leadership you have shown. Please thank someone who has supported you.