Amid the memes floating around, there’s one reminding us “we’re not all in the same boat” in this sea change.
While online learning is working well for many students and families, it is not for all. We see this in system data; technology requests; teacher and parent feedback; and in our survey results, especially the thousands of comments from students and parents.
I am inspired by families embracing online learning, and parents diving in and discovering a gift for teaching. I am lifted by the ingenuity and creativity of our students, like Sequoyah HS junior Dalton Luedke, who’s using 3D printing lessons from school to craft masks for healthcare workers (https://bit.ly/SequoyahS3D) and the inspiring banner made by Mill Creek MS sixth-graders Isabella and Olivia Kennison (see photos above and below).
There also are stories that hurt my heart as an educator. Parents, exhausted from long days as essential front-line workers, trying to help multiple children before bedtime. Parents struggling to assist children for whom learning always is a challenge. Parents whose honor roll students are failing at home. We are not all in the same boat.
Our teachers are doing an outstanding job, despite the circumstances. They miss their students. They want them to succeed. They rose to the challenge and reinvented how they teach with hours’ notice. Students are learning not only lessons, but also how to video conference, design Power Points, and manage their time -- valuable skills they may not have otherwise learned so soon. Our teachers also recognize the obstacles some students face, when students’ squares on a Teams video call are empty, when otherwise successful students fail to submit work.
We are extending grace, but we heard from many of you that you needed relief as well.
With that in mind, my team and I looked hard at the lessons we expect students to master by the end of the school year. Spring is when we prepare for and take State tests and final exams, which all have been waived; and when we host many special events – from field days to awards ceremonies - which, sadly, aren’t happening. Knowing this, and that online learning is no substitute for being in class, we determined the school year could end May 8 without creating a learning gap too wide for teachers to close in August.
This decision allows teachers to work May 9-22 more closely with students who need remediation. The more students on the same level in August, the better for the whole class. Also, to aid families succeeding with online learning who want to continue, our Curriculum & Instruction team is compiling resources that we will share with you.
What will next school year look like? No one can say today, but we’re preparing. We anticipate State, local and federal funding shortfalls and are identifying central office cuts to minimize impact on the classroom. We are not realizing savings by ending the school year early; the majority of our budget is expended on teacher salaries and benefits, and they will work with students through May 22, and then begin preparing for next school year. Cleaning, maintenance and construction work are underway in schools; buses are undergoing annual maintenance; and central office operations never stop.
We’re not all in the same boat, but our School Board, my leadership team and I are dedicated to raising us all up and tirelessly waving the #CCSDfam flag.
Thank you for everything,
Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools
UPDATES: Teachers are extending grace to ensure students, who were succeeding prior to March 13 and who continue to try, but are struggling with online learning, aren’t punished for it with low grades. If your child needs help, contact the teacher; if you need further help, contact the Principal. Our school counselors have published their second Counselor Connector newsletter, with resources for students and families, on our resource webpage at https://www.cherokeek12.net/content/bulletin-board We’re setting tentative dates for possible in-person high school graduation in July, and will share those dates as soon as possible. We’ll continue our #CCSDserves (http://bit.ly/CCSDserves) to-go meal program through May 18; there will be no service Memorial Day (May 25). We’ll resume the week of June 1, with adjustments to schedules and locations, which we’ll communicate in advance. We know you have more questions (retrieving belongings, yearbooks, prom and field trip refunds, etc.) -- as soon as there’s more information, your child’s Principal will share it.
Barbara P. Jacoby
Chief Communications Officer
Cherokee County School District
Artwork by Mill Creek MS sixth-graders Isabella and Olivia Kennison