Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to a new school year that will hopefully be so much closer to a "normal" year than what we have all experienced lately!
I wanted to provide a quick update on two things that you will hear about / see on Monday and through the coming week.
Everyone has been through a lot, and while we are slowly getting back to a more normal school setting, I am asking for everyone to please continue to exercise an abundance of tolerance and flexibility as we start school. This will go a long way in making the start of the year as positive as possible and reduce stress for everyone concerned. We have essentially a new Central Administration, during a time that would prove challenging to even the most experienced and established team. Dr. Lohman, new to his role, HR Dr. Hagan has been here just under a year, and Mr. Crenshaw is returning to Longwood in a new role. We also have some new Directors, New Principals, and Assistant Principals. We are looking forward to very positive relationships with the district, but understand that there will be some growing pains.
First: I wanted to share that Central Office has let us know that they have been addressing, and continue to address staffing issues in our custodial / maintenance departments and that they have worked very hard throughout the summer to prepare our buildings. There may be some work that remains to be done across our buildings. If you experience this in your particular room or area, please take these three steps: let your principal know, fill out a district work order if it applies, and let us know at MITA. This can be an email cc'ing us and the principal. I do not predict these situations to be widespread, but I wanted to let everyone know in advance, just so that we can all be prepared to give a little bit of tolerance here. To be clear, this is not a pass or any type of agreement that it is acceptable to not have everything ready, but realistically, the district has come to us and explained that there may be a few loose ends, so we agreed to communicate that and help to get anything that may be outstanding resolved with all parties in as timely a manner as possible.
Second: If you have reviewed the agenda sent out by Mr. Crenshaw, you will see an item called "Google Classroom Requirement." Dr. Lohman will be speaking about this on Monday, but I wanted to provide a little bit more information on that item to everyone. The district is not offering a remote option for students this year. There is still the potential for students to be quarantined for up to 10 days at a time. Dr. Lohman and MITA had a discussion about our obligation to furnish work/assignments when students are absent for an extended time. He proposed utilizing Google Classroom as a platform to provide assignments for quarantined students since it is available to all teachers and is an effective and easy way to make assignments available. He was clear that his expectation was using it as a means to access assignments. This could be updated weekly or as needed, determined by the teacher to make work available.
We agreed with this, with 2 provisions.
1) That ALL TEACHERS be given time weekly to maintain a Google Classroom during Common Planning, or other designated time within their workday, (not their lunch.)
2) That there is NO expectation of ANY "live" instruction. No Google Meets. No videos, no other form of live/synchronous instruction required, AND that he ensures that this is made clear in his communication so that there will be NO expectation of that from parents.
Dr. Lohman agreed with these two provisions and also agreed that there are multiple ways to send work home. Email, leaving work at a designated spot in your buildings for parents to pick up, even mailing hard copies home, if that is what works for you and the student/parent. But we did agree that Google Classroom will be a platform for students to access assignments in the event of quarantine or extended absence.
Lastly, I was in attendance at last night's BOE meeting. If you have not heard about it, it was a display of very poor conduct/judgment by some parents/community members. It went way beyond the mask issue. Physical altercations broke out. People rushed the stage where the BOE and Cabinet were seated. Our Public Relations Specialist Pam Donovan was pushed and hit in the face. I know that groups have formed who, through local chapters, are targeting BOE meetings to protest decisions about masks and beyond.
ANY topic can be discussed, provided there is respect and civility. I encourage all MITA members, regardless of your personal thoughts and views on masks, vaccines etc. to distance yourselves from this group and others like it, and instead, use proper and professional lines of communication to voice your objections to District/State policy. There is no reason for a Longwood BOE meeting to end with the police having to respond to control the situation.
Moving on, let's look ahead and start the year welcoming our students and setting the stage for a great year for all of us. We can do it. We can take a collective breath, focus on what is important, not let outside distractions derail us, and help each other!
I would also like to ask everyone to please welcome our 50 newest teachers and TAs! Have a great first week, and contact me at the MITA office if you need anything!