Thirty years ago I entered the field of education. One of the many things that attracted me to education was that I could count on no two days ever being the same.
They say the only constant is change. I say the pace of change in the last three months has been constant.
Starting in mid-March, the past few months at the district have been fast, then slow; waiting for guidance, tweaking our plans, then waiting again.
Like flipping on a light switch, we went from blissful normalcy with hectic school mornings and cafeteria lunches with classmates to chaotic transition: All schools in Wisconsin were closed. Everything we took for granted was picked up and dropped on its head.
Through it all, our theme has been resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a toughness. Difficulties, not impossibilities.
For SASD, those difficulties included providing food to our students, supporting our students, particularly our most vulnerable ones, without face-to-face accountability and connection and protecting our educators and staff from emotional exhaustion.
By way of resilience, we made it through 85 days of virtual learning (including weekends), provided 129 internet hotspots, delivered 52,528 meals and graduated 252 seniors. We came out on the other side of the 2019-2020 school year needing some rest, yes, but also proud of our survival, successes, and resilience.
As we wait some more, we plan.
Our top priorities for the fall are 1. Keeping our students, families and staff safe and healthy, 2. Providing high-quality instruction and support services to our students and families in any school scenario.
We added a third to our list after the unjust murder of George Floyd and related protests: fighting the good fight for racial equity and anti-racism.
At SASD, we recognize that anti-racism is not a trend and that allyship is a process and worth striving for. For years, equity has been a topic of conversation at the district for our board members and staff. Equity is a lens through which we make decisions, one example the pandemic.
With that being said, our anti-racism efforts must be revisited and amplified in whichever school scenario we find ourselves. We want to set the example for our students, the next generation, as well as our community. We hope those coming out of the Stoughton Area School District will be the inclusive leaders of tomorrow.
The following are actions we’ve committed to in continuation of our work for equity – particularly anti-racism:
• Hosting equity professional development for staff in June and July,
• Revisiting and concluding our 2019-2020 staff book study on “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo,
• Reexamining current practices in areas such as curriculum, behavioral interventions and mental health supports,
• Participating in a community book read and conversations about the white racial frame with the Dane County Equity Consortium, and
• Establishing a Superintendent’s Cabinet consisting of secondary students.
Our ears are always open. A great way for community members to express their interests, concerns and values is through public comment at our Board of Education meetings, whether face-to-face or virtually.
As the world around us continues to change, my commitment to our students will remain the same, to prepare them for the emerging world.