Through difficult times, you are never alone

From the Executive Director, Wesley Smith

August 24, 2020
SMITH_W_MUG_RGBOn April 13 in this column, I applauded site, district, and county leaders for stepping up and leading in a vacuum of state guidance and direction. As spring turned to summer and summer headed toward fall, the decisions of leaders became no less significant, no less political, and no less scrutinized. You pivoted and innovated as you planned for safe, high-quality, equitable school reopenings, and ACSA has pivoted and innovated with you. We knew that our education leaders deserved more guidance, direction, and support than they received during school closures, so ACSA convened a School Reopening Workgroup to utilize the collective expertise of our members to provide support for the field and advocacy for necessary state intervention.  By May, ACSA published the most comprehensive statewide guide on school reopening . Besides scenario planning and articulating scheduling modalities, ACSA’s reopening guide included “Core Values,” a “Call to Action,” and “California’s Essential Commitments to Equitable Education.” Most notably, our members called on the state to provide explicit safety protocols and commit to high-quality, equitable learning opportunities for all students. We stated our commitment to high-quality, direct instruction on a regular basis; assessment of student learning and engagement; support for the social and emotional needs of our students and staff; and effective services for students with exceptional needs amongst other commitments. Our advocacy resulted in California Department of Public Health criteria for reopening schools and the inclusion of high-quality instruction in SB 98. We also knew that the emotional and psychological well-being of our members would be jeopardized by feelings of isolation. Within two weeks of the shutdown, ACSA leveraged virtual meetings and social media to connect our members, clarify state and federal policies, offer professional development, and inspire hope. We launched Common Purpose, Uncommon Times, the ACSA Campus Tour, and the ACSA Legislative Lunch Break, as well as webinars on a variety of topics including distance learning, serving students with disabilities, and systemic racial injustice in public education. Throughout the pandemic, we have encouraged our members to reframe this crisis as an opportunity to innovate and evolve. ACSA, too, has used this crisis as an impetus for change and growth. Our last two strategic plans have called on us to offer more professional development virtually, and this summer we have done just that. Besides the webinars already mentioned, we hosted our Sisterhood Leadership Symposium virtually and we are planning for ACSA’s first online Leadership Summit this November. Most recently, ACSA launched its Online Learning Center where members can participate in academies and other activities online.  These innovations will allow our members to participate in professional development without jeopardizing their safety, taking time away from their “day jobs,” or incurring travel costs in these challenging fiscal times. Not to be forgotten, we collectively fought against a May budget revise that would have cut the Local Control Funding Formula by 10 percent, eliminated categoricals that support Career Technical Education and Adult Education, and denied additional funding for students with disabilities. Because of your grassroots advocacy and the expertise of our Governmental Relations team, we were able to guarantee 2019-20 funding levels and avoid the aforementioned reductions. We protected funding that allows districts and counties to more safely reopen in 2020-21. ACSA also conducts daily, California-centric federal advocacy through Foresight Law + Policy. We have worked on increased federal funding and flexibility with measurable success.  As Daryl Camp famously stated, “When you are with ACSA, you are never alone.” Regardless of our inability to support you in person, we are here to support you, provide professional development, and advocate for you daily. We are committed to adapting and innovating as you adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs of your students, staffs, and communities. We are here, and “We’ve got you!”

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators