Dear Otselic Valley:
In the words of Lou Holtz, “There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing, and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing!” As I reflect on our extended school closure, I continually return to the weekly, and at times daily and hourly, recalibration that is taking place at Otselic Valley, within our community, across our great nation, and in countries beyond our shores.
As educators, how do we normalize something so abnormal? The reality is, we cannot. A former teacher once told me that mountains placed in the paths of our lives are placed there to help us get a better view.
Imagine, if you will, that our old educational framework was a caterpillar climbing a tall, strong, beautiful tree. Yet in the middle of the journey the caterpillar stopped, entered its cocoon and began metamorphosis, and emerged as a beautiful butterfly. This butterfly can fly above the tall, strong, beautiful tree and find safe harbor in its lofty branches when it needs rest or protection.
As a school district, we are collectively watering the seeds that need to grow: seeds of connection, relationships, evidential learning, support, problem solving, and skill centric, essential standards. The new educational framework that emerges, beyond the grip of this global pandemic, will allow Otselic Valley to burst out of the pandemic chrysalis as a magnificent butterfly that can soar to new heights.
While we are in this chrysalis phase as a district, it is essential that we collectively provide measures of grace to ourselves, and to all those we serve within the school community. The challenges we face individually and as a community are hard. For many, we will never truly know the totality of loss, heartache, and suffering that many are facing during this time period. Measures of grace are essential.
This time is particularly difficult for our seniors and their families. How we celebrate graduation has become a new question. Postponements of special events like prom must be expected. Both the calendar and the landscape have changed so we must adapt with it. Know that we will all do the best we can.
As a District, we continually find new ways to stay connected:
- Mrs. Eaves is managing availability of assignments through a new weekly chart for all grades and all classes.
- Mrs. Richards has used ThoughtExchange, a crowd sourcing tool that lets participants answer anonymously and freely, to learn more from families about how things are going and how we can help.
- Teachers are using digital platforms to meet with students and stay connected. Just a few examples: an elementary school scavenger hunt was led by Mr. Gross and staff, Mrs. Osowski’s short movie provided heartfelt staff greetings to students, and health and fitness are encouraged through Ms. Graham’s Facebook Group and even a Kindergarten dance party with help from Mrs. Miller.
- Ms. Moisan is creating Senior Spotlights as a way to celebrate our seniors on Facebook.
- The public can access Board of Education meetings by dialing a phone number shared on the website and social media.
- Regular food deliveries have become part of the rhythm of students’ school days. We are grateful to Kristi Tefft at the South Otselic Store for contributing styrofoam coolers that help our staff practice social distancing and protect food left for students.
- On April 30, we will release a video where Mr. Silky and I talk about about phase 2 of the capital project. You may discover that I have “a face made for radio,” but I hope it will at least give you information you can use in a format that is safer than public meetings.
Please keep checking our social media and website for updates. Today, for example, we are sharing yearbook news, including a reopening of the yearbook online store for senior ads and purchase until May 1. We are also announcing, with pride, the Valedictorian and Salutatorian for the Class of 2020. As always, we will share directives from the Governor as we get them, including a later budget vote date.
As we walk together one step at a time, we must remember that we all take different sized steps. As so many institutional frameworks have been reimagined over the past six weeks, it is important not to idolize the past but to welcome the future, however uncertain that future might be. We cannot go back and change what is in the rear view mirror; we can, however, help to shape our future. But it will take measures of grace.
If the glass is half empty, take the measure of grace until you can see it is actually half full. If the scores are important, take the measure grace until you can see that the game has changed, and we will collaboratively adjust together. If the work is not complete, take measures of grace to demonstrate evidence of learning. If you are not a teacher, find measures of grace until you see us standing with you in the challenge.
Measures of grace will sustain, strengthen, and rejuvenate us during this uncertain time. My challenge to you is, to whom can you provide a measure of grace?
Robert G. Berson
Superintendent of Schools
Otselic Valley Central School District
We aspire to be a model school that empowers all students to realize their unlimited potential.