Front PageBy Theresa Kelly Gegen
The Illinois School Board Journal applies the lessons of the pandemic to school district plans for the future and seeks to identify how districts can address the loss and opportunity this generation of students and educators is facing. We emerge hopefully from the pandemic with an outlook of decisions, cautions, concerns, and the full focus of hindsight.
There is both the fear, and the hope, that public education will never be the same.
“Moving forward into 2021-22, my concern is that people will have a short memory,” says Diane Wolf, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Bloomington SD 87. “I am concerned that decisions we had to make in December 2020 will be criticized as we move out of the COVID pandemic. We made decisions at the time with the information we had present and then we adjusted accordingly. I’m worried that parents, school board members, teachers, and our communities will forget the difficulties of changing an entire system of education and be critical of administrators due to those decisions.”
“My greatest concern is getting back to a normal educational environment,” says Eric Misener, Superintendent at Seneca CCSD 170. “Students need to be able to socialize, participate in extra activities, and just be kids.”
“How do we capitalize on what we have learned about our students and differentiate an entire educational system?” queries Kankakee CUSD 111 superintendent Genevra Walters, “And how do we do this with the knowledge that education as a system hasn’t changed significantly since the early 1900s?”
Even as school districts celebrate what they can as Summer 2021 arrives and school personnel (I hope) take a short pause before the wheel turns again, the education community moves forward. Illinois school districts are addressing learning loss, seizing the opportunity for change, learning from peers in the education community, and determining how to best use the funding earmarked for recovery. Anticipating the 2021-2022 school year, educators at all levels are seeking opportunity in recovery, to overcome the setbacks of the pandemic and discover to address disparities and inequities. Read about this and more in “Learning Loss, Learning Opportunity” starting on page 9.
We also bring some of the national-level research, data, and outlook for looking ahead. On page 21, learn about “Operation Reverse the Loss” and how the Institute of Education Sciences, the United States Department of Education’s science agency, aims to speed up the process to identify what works for whom under what conditions. Also read, beginning on page 24, an analysis of priorities for intensive academic intervention strategies, presented by Elaine Allensworth and Nate Schwartz of EdResearch for Recovery.
Three school districts that opened last fall (and stayed open) for five-day learning join the Journal this month to offer key elements of their experiences and recommendations for moving forward. Thanks to Butler SD 53 in Oak Brook, Gower SD 62 in Willowbrook, and Roselle SD 12 for sharing valuable guidance, which begins on page 14.
The Association and the Journal are cautiously steering back into normal-time waters. All board members, new ones in particular, are advised to discover how, once you are an elected or appointed school board member, “your personal phone could become public business.” Attorneys Scott Uhler and Mallory Milluzzi, with Klein, Thorpe, and Jenkins, Ltd. bring us this update, starting on page 29.
As always, I welcome your comments about the Journal and all topics of interest to school board members in Illinois.