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A message from Superintendent Charles Smialek, Ph.D.

April 6, 2020


Today marks the beginning of the second phase of our closure‭. ‬

Students will continue to learn from their homes and teachers will continue to make themselves available for consultation via email‭, ‬Google Meet‭, ‬or other emerging forms of technology‭. ‬

Our nutrition services staff will continue to provide borderline heroic support to our families through the distribution of milk‭ ‬and food‭. ‬

And‭, ‬our administrators will continue to lead‭, ‬supporting the efforts of those with whom they work‭, ‬providing encouragement to our students‭, ‬and doing‭ ‬“whatever it takes”‭ ‬to make this spring as productive and positive as possible‭. ‬In short‭, ‬we will continue to personify the sense of resilience that endures within and has sustained our iconic district as a sense of pride across our three communities‭. ‬

But‭, ‬make no mistake‭, ‬the form of education we will deliver until the Governor tells us we can resume traditional schooling is nothing short of an experiment‭, ‬hatched under what can best be described as adverse circumstances‭. ‬Imagine a football team informed that their traditional ball‭, ‬with which they have practiced and honed their craft for years‭, ‬has been replaced by a frisbee five days before the season starts‭. ‬The team would certainly work to adjust as they know they have no real choice in the matter‭, ‬and‭,‬`some players with unique skill sets would even thrive‭. ‬But the game that we have all come to know and rely upon as a staple‭ ‬of our culture certainly would not be the same for any of us‭. ‬

Our teachers‭, ‬our students‭, ‬and our families are enduring similar challenges‭. ‬The fundamental pillar of our system of public education is the relationship that emerges between a teacher and his/her students‭. ‬Relationships are‭, ‬at best‭, ‬superficial without‭ ‬everyday interaction that can tell someone so much more about another than a written word‭. ‬

The fundamental pillar of our pedagogy is the master teacher’s use of cues and questions to stimulate discussion‭, ‬to check for understanding‭, ‬to prompt original thought in the minds of the‭ ‬class‭. ‬Cues‭, ‬questions‭, ‬and discussions‭, ‬are‭, ‬at best‭, ‬forced and robotic without the ability of teachers to‭ ‬“read the room”‭, ‬and adjust his/her approach‭ ‬“on the fly”‭ ‬as students offer preciously rare glimpses into their psyches‭. ‬

The fundamental challenge of our large‭, ‬urban public school district‭, ‬is the combination of daily travails that students endure‭ ‬as they learn to‭ ‬“navigate the system”‭ ‬inherent to any organization with‭, ‬literally‭, ‬thousands of diverse perspectives and variables that contribute to the unique‭, ‬irreplicable synergy of the whole‭. ‬These perspectives‭, ‬this panoply of variables have been dramatically reduced in the enclosed‭, ‬restricted reality we now describe as our‭ ‬“new normal‭.‬”

These words‭, ‬this picture of despair‭, ‬are not meant to poke at the scabs we all carefully tend as we cope with the sacrifices we‭ ‬will continue to make for the foreseeable future‭. ‬No‭, ‬we should not‭, ‬we cannot wallow in self-pity in the face of this pervasive‭, ‬invisible opponent that has swept our globe‭. ‬

Instead‭, ‬these words are an invitation to reflect upon all of the gifts that our daily rituals bring to us and to our families‭. ‬For now is not forever‭. ‬And‭, ‬for all of us‭, ‬we anticipate‭, ‬and prepare for a return to school‭, ‬this time realizing just a little‭ ‬bit more how very special are the teaching and learning processes of our Parma Schools‭.‬