I've been reflecting a lot lately on the concept of priorities. What are my own priorities? What should the priorities of our school district be? How does a global pandemic impact those priorities?
Personally, I've always strived to keep my priorities simple. I've often said that I'm a husband, a father, and a superintendent, in that order. My logic is that if I'm a good husband, that will help me to be a good father. Taking care of my family and getting support from them is ultimately going to make me a better worker in my professional life. So to be the best superintendent that I can be for Benzie Central, it's important that I keep my personal life in order.
What I recognize, and I'll bet we're all feeling this in some form right now, is that crisis has had a way of messing with priorities. Often it takes other more basic needs and vaults them to the front of the line. It sounds great to focus on being a good spouse and/or parent, but if a crisis grips the household, ensuring that you have food on the table and a roof over everyone's heads quickly moves to the top of the list, sometimes making those other priorities suffer.
Schools are much the same way. Our priorities are rightly focused on learning. Yet we also recognize that we cannot help students learn when their basic needs are not met. It is this care that we have for students that has driven us to develop programs like our food service to meet the physical needs of our students and why we retain staff to meet mental health needs of our students like our counselors and safenet workers.
Now, as we face this COVID-19 crisis, our priorities have been shaken up dramatically and we are responding as best as we can. This is why we quickly shifted our food service program to become mobile and ensured access to mental health services online, even when distance separates us from our students and families. While there is no doubt that we've had to shift our priorities, our base mission and priority - to focus on learning - remains very much at our core.
To that end, we have done everything we can in a very short timeline to transition to a remote learning model. And we have been amazed at how quickly our students have figured out the technology! While imperfect, it has been inspiring to witness our group of educators rally in the face of adversity to make this happen. It continues to get better every day, and the commitment to improving is evident in countless actions being taken every day. What this means more than anything, is that we are adjusting our priorities to ensure ongoing connection to our students and families. The priority is first and foremost on that connection and ensuring basic needs are met. Because it's then and only then that we know they will be in a good place to learn.
To our families - please know that we understand your priorities are rightfully in whatever place they need to be to make sure your basic needs are met first. For some of you, that may mean that learning isn't at the top of the list at the moment. We will work with you where you are.
Our biggest ask of you is that you help us stay connected with you and your children. Please help keep the lines of communication open. Your child's teacher(s), our building leaders, and our support staff are ready to assist you. Rest assured - we've got this - together!