I thought this letter to NYC principals from Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principal union, was terrific -- with advice that we should all listen to, no matter what our respective roles, whether administrator, teacher or parent. Feel free to share it widely. - Leonie
Though I have been actively involved in CSA’s communications over the last two weeks, I wanted to personally share my appreciation for your heroic efforts as well as a few thoughts on what comes next.
Since late last week, the CSA felt that the closing of our schools was a drastic but necessary step to safeguard school communities and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our city. Therefore, while aware that transitioning over 1,700 schools to distance learning in just a few days would be a near impossible task, we strongly advocated that the mayor do so.
Since then, as expected, you have been inundated with information and directives that have been sometimes confusing and conflicting, sometimes unrealistic and have often left you with unanswered questions. Through it all, you have been the calming, positive and steady presence your staff needs. You have instilled confidence and trust in them even when your own confidence was shaken. I recognize it, the chancellor recognizes it, and we both thank you!
With all the confusion, I would like to offer some clarity. Your primary responsibility over the next several weeks is to do the best you can to provide your students with quality learning opportunities. It is understood that some schools and some individual teachers are much further along than others in their distance learning capabilities. You will not be disciplined if you are unable to accurately or completely fulfill every expectation or strictly adhere to deadlines outlined in the DOE’s “expectations memo.”
You are not expected to offer the same level of supervision as you are able to during the typical school day. You and the assistant principals should be checking in on staff and offering support and ideas for how they can best serve students. You do not, however, need to concern yourself with scrutinizing teacher schedules and other minutiae. Continue to encourage and remain a source of strength for your teachers. Be available for them, model as best you can, and be open to their feedback and concerns. While not under the roof of your building, I know you will find innovative and real ways to keep your community connected for the benefit of your students.
We are in unchartered territory and everyone understands it. The goal is not to recreate a normal school day given that the sudden changes in our lives and routines are anything but normal. The goal must be to provide some semblance of stability and learning for our students while paying careful attention to their social and emotional health. In turn, we must acknowledge the anxiety and fears in the adults around us and provide an outlet for them as well.
Finally, you must take care of yourself. When things speed up, you must slow down. Make sure you do the things that bring you peace of mind and body so that you can be present for those who look to you for guidance.
Please know that CSA will be by your side throughout this process and that we are diligently working to bring clarity and get your questions answered. Please feel free to reach out to us at any time and, in the meantime, just do the best that you can!