“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
It has been over four months since we have come to grips with the realities of COVID-19 and the profound effects it has had on our lives and the entire educational system. Hopefully you realize that as early as last February your union, the Springfield Education Association, has been deeply involved in advocating for a plan that both protects you and your family and simultaneously provides the very best education for the students, families and the Springfield community that we all serve so diligently. If not, I must apologize and assure you that your union leaders and individual members have been vocal.
Together, we have done a stellar job as citizens and a city and state with flattening the curve. But even despite those efforts, a rise in confirmed cases locally and nationally seem to lurk toward us. The American Pediatrics Association and the Center for Disease Control have stated that getting back to school is best for kids, in order to protect them from the dangers that potential lack of learning and mental health regression and abuses that they may experience outside of schools. On the other hand, the CDC is also stating that not following social distancing and mask guidelines, which seem impossible within school walls, could possibly prove catastrophic to individuals and force local school districts to shut back down.
Starting July 7 (and for the last 13 days), many union members and district administrators have poured hours into working collaboratively to provide input to the Superintendent’s vision of a multi-pronged approach for education this fall. SEA members have worked side by side with building and district administrators to help formalize a written plan that could achieve an outcome acceptable to parents and district employees. The plan’s designed intent, to provide safe in person opportunities and improved learning for those who could not reenter our brick and mortar learning sanctuaries. The seemingly impossible task of getting students back into schools, while keeping all employees and the students safe an unparalleled challenge.
As vocal as I have often been (and will continue to be if supported by the membership) about issues in which District administration or the Board of Education may not necessarily meet the needs of SEA members, I feel that this is not the time for fisticuffs. Fair criticisms may be lodged against past surveys, the timely release of the transition plan (Monday, July 20), the transparency of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the District, or the lack of personal trust some may have in either the Union or the District organizations that allow one’s thoughts to veer toward doubt. I implore all however to not devour ourselves in this process. As I have vocalized with the media and firmly feel, even in the midst of disagreement, I am convinced that we can find common ground to provide what is best for Springfield’s students, families, and District employees to safely navigate us to the other side of this rubicon.
President – Springfield Education Association