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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 18, 2020

It Takes a Different Kind of Effort

In his weekly message to employees, Supt. Elder writes about the importance of good communication.

The key to a good, healthy working relationship is trust. And how do you build trust? Through honest and open communication. 

As a teacher, principal, district administrator and now interim superintendent, I have strived to keep the lines of communication open with students, their families, our staff and board. I understand the importance of two-way conversations, of providing opportunities for others to talk as I listen, of answering questions, sharing ideas, and showing genuine care, vulnerability, positivity and respect.

Of course, the best way to have these conversations is face-to-face. It’s hard to show empathy through a telephone line or, worse, a computer screen. 

Though we may be constrained in how we communicate these days, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to have conversations just as meaningfully and honestly as we would when we were visiting in classrooms or offices, walking together down hallways, or meeting over a cup of coffee.

It just takes a different kind of effort. 

We have to wade through a lot more written messages these days. A lot more! So many emails, memos, guidelines, instructions, toolkits, and surveys, not to mention the texts, chats, and posts. Believe me, I understand how quickly your inbox fills up. It can be downright overwhelming. And tempting to ignore.

Please don’t. When you receive a message from your principal or supervisor or the district – or me! – it’s because we want to share important information with you. We want you in the loop as we make decisions affecting the wellbeing of our students and the ability for you to do your job.

For example, if you are a principal or teacher, please take a moment to answer the latest survey you’ll be getting in the coming days. It’s similar to a survey we sent to parents and posted to the website earlier this week. We sincerely want to know how remote learning is going, and what we can do to make it better. We also want your ideas for a smooth transition to hybrid learning next semester. 

We truly value your thoughts, suggestions, concerns, and, yes, even your grievances. This has been a difficult school year, without a doubt. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate how hard everyone is trying to make it work. We’re here to help. 

One of our biggest communication challenges during the pandemic is how easy messages can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or simply missed! As carefully as we choose our words, too often, they get confused or lost. One reason for this is how often the message changes. As you know all too well, this is a fast-moving train, and it’s continuously correcting course. 

Let me update you on a few items. When our teachers and staff return to schools, they now will be subject to voluntary or random COVID-19 testing. The state expects 5 percent of our school staff to be tested per week, which will take quite a bit of coordination and planning.

Another heavy lift – we now are responsible for notifying others when a student or staff member tests positive for the virus to keep it from spreading. Yet again, this will take much coordination and planning.

And in response to the demand for grab and go meals that now can be given to anyone 18 and under, we added dozens of more school distribution sites and handed out nearly 150,000 meals in the first couple of days of the expanded program. 

These latest updates show why it’s so crucial for us to stay in touch.

And as necessary as it is for you to stay connected to those who support you in your work, we need to do the same with our students and their families, keeping in mind that they feel just as overwhelmed, over messaged, overstressed. Talk to them, and listen, show them how much you care and want to help. I know you do. I see it every day, and I appreciate you.