It is no secret that although we are all excited to have students back in our schools, the consistent message coming from principals and assistant principals across the state is that this year is quickly proving to be even more challenging than last year. We want you to know that we hear you and that we are here for you.
The layers of school leadership right now are massively complex and challenging. Between standing in the middle of way too many divisive issues, to serving as the Chief COVID Response Officer, to covering classrooms, to scratching your head by irregular student behavior, we empathize with the realities you are facing. And because those challenges aren’t enough, someone thought it was a good idea to start a destructive TikTok campaign to destroy your campuses?
Thanks to the many members across the state who communicate with us on a regular basis, we are able to share your stories directly with OSPI, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Health, WASA, WSSDA and all the other stakeholder groups in the P-16 system. Without your stories, we can’t adequately paint the picture of the extreme challenges you are facing by the minute. If you find yourself thinking that you are too small to impact big changes, you are wrong. Your voice matters. We are available 24/7 to hear from you, support you, and share your message to the powers-that-be.
That being said, because of you, we recently encouraged the Governor’s Office and the Department of Health to rethink their guidance about social distancing, COVID testing, contact tracing, quarantining, and the classifications and consequences associated with labeling vaccinated and unvaccinated staff. We shared that the majority of principals are reporting spending more of their time dealing with COVID-related issues instead of leading teaching and learning. Many of you said that your entire day is spent on contact tracing and/or covering classrooms. We shared that schools are barely staying open due to high absenteeism of both students and staff. Most importantly, we shared that YOU are barely hanging on in a job that is relentless, increasingly unrealistic, and exhausting.
We have asked for immediate relief and support to building leaders. You need urgent support and care. You need access to ESSER funds at the building level in your own budget in order to make minute by minute decisions according to the urgency and context. You need hope that something will give at the policy, procedure, and/or mandate level that will bring common sense and common science into play.
We have shared your urgent concerns with OSPI officials. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal will be meeting with your AWSP Board this week. None of us can sit idle. We need to stand up, communicate the issues, offer some solutions, and save our schools. If you have ideas that might bring relief to what you are facing, please reach out to me directly.
Finally, we know you love kids. We know you love your schools. We know you love having the kids back, hallways full of noise, and classrooms buzzing with learning. We also know that a school is not a school without an incredible leader like you. My worry now is that too many of you are wondering how much longer you can keep up this pace of constantly responding to COVID-related issues, courageously standing in the middle of division, and striving to keep hope alive for everyone.
We can’t lose hope and your school can’t afford to lose you. I believe there is hope on the horizon. State leaders, thanks to you, have heard your voices and are working on some relief. In the meantime, please reach out to us directly for help, a hug, support, great ideas, and solutions that we can keep pushing upstream.