Friday, December 4, 2020

To the Superintendent and Board Members of Norman Public Schools


Letter to NPS Superintendent and Board Members:


Here’s what I think I know about Covid today:


Children DO get Covid.

Children DO get Covid here in Oklahoma.

It appears young children may be safer than older children and teens.

More kids get/have Covid than we know.


I’m speaking to you as a former teacher in Norman, a parent of two NPS grads, grandmother to two more NPS grads, and grandmother to one current NPS student, working remotely.


I have much invested in Norman Schools, and I still have dear friends who are teaching in our schools. That is why the anger and conflicts I see among parents and teachers hurts my heart. We all have the same ultimate goals: the best education possible for every student in Norman. Safe schools. Accomplished teachers in every classroom. All of us feeling supported by our administration, our Board, and our community.

I know your job right now is incredibly difficult and challenging. You must balance the needs of all stakeholders, as Rep. Ranson mentioned above. So, as a stakeholder, let me share what I think i know right now, and what I hope we will be able to accomplish together.


Covid has upended our country, our state, and our community, in ways we could not have anticipated. We find ourselves divided by masks and indoor gatherings, over Covid testing, and the expectations for our schools. My friend, Jena, Oklahoma Teacher of the Year was booed as she spoke to her district School Board, asking for patience in starting in-person school this fall. A beloved teacher was booed. 


Kids are often asymptomatic or have different symptoms we may miss.

Kids are carriers.

If we don't test youngsters for Covid, we can pretend they're fine.

If we use tests that give false-negatives, we can pretend they're fine.


In Oklahoma we have two vastly different examples of leaders responding to a global pandemic: the Cherokee Nation, working together, ‘following the science,’ and our Governor, calling for a day of prayer and fasting – in a state where nearly one in four children are food-insecure. These two extremes mirror what is happening in our communities, in our schools. Some follow the science. Some pray and fast.


If we send kids to school while waiting for test results, we can pretend they're fine.

If we send kids to school with coughs, or upset tummies, we can pretend they're fine.

If we send kids to school, telling them not to talk about a Covid diagnosis in the home, we can pretend they're fine.

If we pretend they're fine, and lie, and don't test, we can cram kids and teachers together.


There are too many unknowns with this virus, the research seems to be changing weekly (we are watching medical advances in real time here), and there are precious few proactive steps schools can take to keep our students, teachers, and all school personnel safe until a vaccine is made available.  


If we cram kids and teachers together without testing, we have plausible deniability when teachers get sick, more teachers, or coaches

Or bus drivers or librarians or office personnel or classroom aides or support personnel or cafeteria workers or custodians.

Or parents or grandparents or daycare workers or Sunday school teachers or neighbors or friends.


I’m not at all certain our state or district leaders are making decisions based on the best science and research. And when the decisions are not aligned with our goals, for education opportunities, safe schools, and strong teachers, our district is weakened.


But, hey! Schools are open.

Parents can go to work.

Schools get their Average Daily Attendance

"It's the economy, Stupid. Right?" 


Here’s what else I know:


Parents need schools to be open so they can go to work

For many reasons, parents may feel unprepared, overwhelmed, or inadequate when faced with supervising schoolwork for their children.

Schools depend on attendance for funding from the state.

Standardized testing  purports to measure the worth of a district.

While Oklahoma received a waiver for testing in 2019-20 school year, no such waiver is an option for this school year.

School administration must be responsive to the community.

Any community will have competing goals and priorities.

This virus has deeply divided our country along ideological lines.

In Norman, wearing masks has become a political issue.

In Norman, outspoken teachers were doxed and identified by their school.

Resources are always scarce, and teachers often supply their own cleaning and disinfecting products.

Teachers are often teaching in-person and virtually.

Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession…or leaving the districts to teach virtually for other districts.

Oklahoma State School Board will not lead the way and mandate masks in schools.


So, that’s what I think I know…today. Where do we go – together – from here? How do we respond to the science, to the realities of our setting, to the needs of all stakeholders? How do we stay united as a community, as a school district? How to we acknowledge and honor the concerns of all, and ground all decisions in the science we know today?


What’s my pie-in-the-sky wish list? Here’s a start.


No Covid. (pie-in-the-sky!)

All teachers and parents vaccinated.

Accurate Covid tests for children.

In-person school as our ultimate goal for all students, when it is safe for everyone.

Equity of opportunity and access for students – resources, wifi, books, laptops or tablets, someone to answer questions and supervise learning. Hot meals.

Stability in our schools and classrooms, interrupted right now by quarantines, substitutes, schools going virtual.

Teachers supported as they do their jobs, having adequate classroom resources, laptops and tablets, wifi, collaboration and planning time.

Parents supported as they do THEIR jobs, helping their students learn, knowing someone can answer their questions, feeling that the district has the best interests of their family in mind, transparency about Covid concerns

 Full support to our schools from the state and federal governments to provide services and resources.

Funding to keep the schools afloat thru this crisis.

Trust in our schools restored.

Schools and parents and community working together to make our schools work for us all. How can I help? 


And until that vaccine is rolled out for us all,






No comments:

Post a Comment