Dear students, parents, teachers, staff and members of our community:
The 2019-2020 school year has been anything but “typical” for students and teachers around the world. In today’s global society, we watched how quickly and unsparingly a pathogen can spread throughout the population of our planet. The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious and ongoing impacts on the scope and way in which we lead our daily lives. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, civil servants, educators and scores of essential workers have emerged as daily heroes, standing on the front lines to keep our communities running smoothly (often at personal sacrifice and risk) – in the absence of a unified and coherent response across our nation.
When the 2019-2020 academic year began, none of the thousands of public school districts across the United States could have predicted the difficult decisions and challenges in providing ongoing education that lay ahead. Given the swiftness with which the pandemic spread and the stark changes it effected, educators were faced with the need to act swiftly and decisively to ensure the health, safety and continued learning for students.
Like countless district leaders across the country, I did not arrive at the decision to transition to remote learning lightly. But, I believe the call to do so on March 13 was the right thing to do. As we consider our priorities as an educational community, the bedrock of our mission is to provide an environment in which students feel respected, valued, cared for, healthy and safe. That includes, of course, ensuring the safety of students and staff from all threats from bullying and harassment to physical violence—and, in this case, a public health crisis.
It was with this duty firmly in mind that I decided we could not safely conduct in-person education when we shifted to remote learning for the final months of the school year. After much consideration, and in consultation with the MDIRSS AOS # 91 School Board, it was clear that this was the most appropriate response to protect our students, staff, and their families, while also continuing to do our job as public educators.
Historically, MDIRSS AOS #91 students, staff and schools have led our state in the classroom, the arts, music, activities and athletics. That has not changed since the COVID-19 pandemic entered our lives. Our students and schools continue to exceed academic standards, create beautiful and moving art and music, and excel in co-curricular programs and events.
Inspired by the resilience of our student body, families and staff, our school district has seized the opportunity presented by the pandemic to expand and enrich local partnerships in our communities. With renewed vigor and effort, our district’s collaboration with community stakeholders has never been more robust. The continued support of these organizations, businesses and individuals inspires augmented curricula and instruction that have been supported through the lens of continuous improvement and hands-on applications – even in the age of social distancing.
I am very proud of the perennial recognition our students, staff and schools earn as advocates and stewards for renewable energy, environmental awareness, sustainability and conservation. The ongoing support and encouragement that our staff and schools lend to student advocacy and voice is something of which we are deeply proud. Together with our students, as global citizens of a shared planet, we are all actively engaged in the teaching and learning process.
During this academic year, our district has continued to evolve and respond in the areas of school safety and security. In so doing, our collective efforts have deliberately focused on balancing climate and culture with identified best practices for public schools. As is ever the case, we will continue to evaluate how to best provide balanced health, safety, and social and emotional resources to support our students, staff and schools.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize and thank the countless staff, volunteers, businesses and community leaders for their time, support, donations, resources and leadership in meeting the needs of our students and families. I cannot convey how much we value, appreciate and acknowledge how fortunate we are to live and learn in this community. You have provided strength, modeling, kindness and stability in helping each of us to assume good intent and do the very best we can in combating this public health crisis.
2020 has been a year of great change. Not only have we all begun to adjust to our “new reality” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but our nation – and citizens around the world – is in the midst of a social, political and modern civil rights movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is born of citizens across the nation and globally – in all their diversity – who believe in fundamental human rights and equality. Our district proudly supports the Black Lives Matter movement and stands with those seeking to promote racial equality and justice.
Despite wondrous advances in education, science, technology, medicine, engineering, entertainment or any of the scores of other fields in which Americans lead innovation and progress – despite the unparalleled spirit and ingenuity of the American people – not every American is treated equally or justly. The Black Lives Matter movement shines a light on racial injustice and stands for the equality promised to the citizens of this nation. The movement is a vehicle for necessary social change to promote the ideals of our great nation and our district will be engaged in supporting our students, staff and families of color. We will listen and we will be an ally. Only together, in all of our diversity, do we truly embody what it means to be American.
Marc Edward Gousse, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools