Rebound from 2020 requires unwavering support for public schools
Kentucky School Advocate
By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director
For roughly 10 months now, we have been living our lives in what feels like one- or two-week increments, anxiously awaiting the next round of updates and any guidance on how to best address the historic crisis in which we find ourselves. On more than a few occasions in 2020, we have been asked to take considerable steps outside our respective comfort zones; inconvenient steps at best and painfully difficult steps at worst. COVID-19 has tested our empathy, our patience and our ability to adapt in the face of uncertainty.
As board members, you have repeatedly been obliged to take swift, decisive action without relying on precedent. Districts have been tasked with finding alternative solutions to massive challenges that previously didn’t exist. Schools have been forced to reinvent the way we are educating and connecting with students and their families while simultaneously preparing for an eventual return to traditional learning.
Despite our collective feelings of exhaustion and occasional futility, I sincerely believe that when this pandemic is behind us, we will emerge stronger and more united. Instead of surrendering to a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, public education did what it has always done: It survived because the stakes are simply too high for it to fail.
There finally appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Newly approved vaccines are slowly making their way to frontline workers and the most vulnerable among us. Many districts are reopening to in-person instruction and students are returning to the classroom where they belong. If only for a moment, let us bask in this new dawn.
Some will claim that the pandemic has revealed potential flaws in our institutions, including our constitutionally mandated system of common schools. Some will use the pandemic and the chaos it has caused to undermine the argument for adequate and equitable state funding for public education. Some will even exploit this trying time in our state’s history to push a narrative that unfairly and inaccurately portrays our teachers, staff, administrators and elected school board members.
More evident than any alleged weaknesses in our system, this pandemic has put on display the great lengths our districts will go to lift up the students in their communities. How Kentucky’s 171 public school districts have responded to our current crises has, if anything, given clear credence to the vital role our public schools play in the future of our Commonwealth. If we are to fully rebound from the catastrophe of the last year it will be because of well-respected, well-supported and well-funded public schools.
It is imperative that we, alongside other education leaders throughout the Commonwealth, remind our communities and our legislators during this current regular session of the General Assembly to once again stand up for our students and for our schools.
For the parts you have played – and that you will continue to play – in keeping our schools operational and moving forward, for carrying the weight of difficult decision after difficult decision, and for your resilience through it all, we sincerely thank you.
This month’s edition of Executive Insights was adapted from Kerri Schelling’s opening remarks at KSBA’s 2020 Winter Symposium on Dec. 4.