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Coming to Nashville

It has been quite a year in Michigan!

After the 2020-2021 school year, most school leaders in Michigan thought that 2021-2022 would be, all things considered, more “normal.”

In 2020-2021, in the Novi Community School District – my school district in Michigan, we had hybrid and virtual students. Our hybrid students had to keep social distance, wear masks, come to school two days a week, be asynchronous two days a week, and completely virtual one day a week. Our teachers who taught the hybrid students had to have lessons for their in-person students, their at-home asynchronous students, and then prepare for one completely virtual day.

Our virtual teachers taught students virtually but in real time. They had to figure out how to engage students meaningfully looking at twenty five zoom boxes each day with students who were learning how to be virtual students for a full day.

It was quite a year. Our teachers and administrators did a great job. And we, based on feedback, test scores, and student and parent surveys, were very successful.

But, we knew we could do better.

So we entered the 2021-2022 school year with high hopes. COVID cases had declined over the summer. We created a virtual school for families that wanted to keep their students in a virtual setting either because virtual seemed to work better or because of their concerns about safety. About 5% of our families chose virtual and we did a wonderful job over the summer of preparing for that new experience.

The other 95% of our students returned. Enrollment ended up increasing modestly this year.

It looked like things would get back to normal.

Boy, were we surprised.

Our in-person students had a difficult time returning to five-day, in-person instruction. COVID returned with a new variant and we battled absenteeism among students and staff.

We then became engaged in conversations about masks, critical race theory, our transparency with families, book banning, social emotional learning, conversations about diversity and equity, and whether it was safe for students to be in school because of COVID. In Michigan, a new push for scholarships to private schools threatened to, and continues to threaten to, decrease tax revenue to support public schools.

This year has been a struggle at times.

Coming to Nashville to participate in the National Conference on Education, #NCE2022, brings a welcome opportunity to renew my focus on students, learning, and moving my district forward. I am excited about the chance to learn from others, hear stories of both struggle and success, support each other, and continue to advocate for public schools.

I look forward to learning from and with you.

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