August 10, 2021

Every year a flood of sentiments (excitement, anxiety, refreshment, exhaustion, happiness to see one another, sadness to leave family at home) circulate around our schools, and amongst all of it is a sense of our return being surreal.  We know it’s coming, but once we step back into our buildings, our rooms, our offices, it still hasn’t set in.  It still seems like we’re not all the way back (or for our new educators all the way here).  Certainly tomorrow will help us feel more enveloped in our life’s work, but in the meantime I hope you use the rest of today to reinvigorate connections with colleagues or spark connections with new or unfamiliar colleagues.
Last year I opened the school year talking about my RV trip last summer.  I talked about the things my family is used to experiencing on our vacations and how there were elements that just weren’t in the cards, like visiting restaurants, sleeping in a comfortable hotel room each night, and taking off-the-beaten-track routes to take in odd or unique sights.  And I talked about how when we returned home we thought to ourselves “wow, how much we missed the comforts of home after living for a week and a half in a 250 square foot box.”
My plan for my opening message this year was to remind everyone of that “wow, how much have we missed” moment as we came back to a more normal school year.  But as life reminds us all the time, our plans do not always follow a straight path.  I’m sure that many of you share in some disappointment or frustration that we are not back to “normal.”  It’s as if our collective professional RV trip is facing a road closure, unexpected weather, or a mechanical failure.  (For some of you this may be bringing back bad memories of a bad flight experience.)  It’s important to acknowledge it’s hard to see the light among all the complications, conflicts, and pending plans.
At the same time, I hope you take some time to remember where we came from.  Think less about attainment and think about growth in this matter.  Our schedules and procedures are better than one year ago when we had absolutely no idea how to provide remote or hybrid instruction and we had no idea if mitigation measures were enough.  We get to see each other in person more, and we have a real appreciation for those connections after spending time away.  And most importantly, we are still here!  We have withstood what may be the most challenging moments of our professional careers.  I hope you take time this week (and every week) to celebrate and honor growth.  And remember, no matter how many detours or delays we experience, we will make it “home”.
I don’t like to make my messages too long, but I have heard a few things around the district that I want to give some helpful information:
  • In case you have not seen it, ISBE and IDPH have provided some helpful guidance related to COVID mitigation (and some initial indications related to quarantine rules) at https://www.isbe.net/Documents/Updated-Public-Health-School-Guidance.pdf  More specific quarantine rules should be released soon, and our nurses and contact tracers will be on top of the proper procedures.  I know we want to know what to expect under every scenario, but I encourage everyone to practice some patience as we still await more guidance from the state.
  • Yes, student growth SLOs for evaluations is back this year (except for SLPs, Counselors, Social Workers, Psychologists, and OT/PT).  The evaluation committee is meeting next week with a focus on the student growth portion.  Please be patient as we work through some options.
  • FOIA: there has been an uptick in FOIA requests in our district.  It has been mentioned at several schools not to use your personal device for public business.  While I do not want you to panic if you have used your phone to check district e-mail or completed your GCN training, I would advise you not to text or email parents with your phone or discuss students with colleagues over personal devices.  This may open the door towards your phone being subject to FOIA requirements.
Thank you for your continued professionalism, dedication, and collegiality.  I believe you will all do great things for our students.
Respectfully,
Joe Blomquist.
SCEA President
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