School Matters

President Abraham Lincoln was dealing with many different issues at the end of the American Civil War. Virtually all of the south hated him because he was the Commander in Chief of the United States Army who had just defeated the Confederacy.

A significant number of people in the north were in disagreement with his policies and the way he had handled the war. Even some of his most loyal supporters voiced their opposition of his reconstruction philosophy of allowing the south to come back into the Union with few consequences.

He had recently lost his son to typhoid fever, and his wife was suffering from a severe mental illness. All of this placed a tremendous burden on Lincoln. In addition to all those problems, Lincoln still had to deal with the normal stress and pressure of being President of the United States.

I have always admired President Lincoln, and I believe he was one of our best presidents.

Many books have been written about his leadership style and how he was able to accomplish so much as president. It is interesting to study his approach to leadership, and I think many of his actions are still applicable today. While many of his attributes were commendable, I believe that his resolve to adhere to the principles he valued was his most admirable trait. He possessed a core set of values that guided his life as a person and as President of the United States. Those values did not change as the political and social environment shifted. He did not run popularity polls to determine what he should do. Those core values were his anchor. A closer analysis of his policies reveal that he probably made numerous mistakes, but he remained faithful to his core values. Shortly before his death, he made the comment, “If I were to lose every friend that I have on this Earth – I will still have one which is deep within my soul.” He would remain faithful to his core values. He understood the sacrifice which was required from holding a leadership position.

There is a great deal of discussion about leadership in our world today. It seems as if leadership is hard to find in our current political climate. We now live in a world in which leaders actually look at polls to determine if a red or blue tie will secure a few more votes.

Most of these leaders are so focused on becoming re-elected, or remaining in their current positions, that they forget to do the job they were hired/elected to do. Holding the office becomes more important than providing leadership.

It is difficult to be a leader today. We have become extremely polarized on most of the important issues, and we seldom attempt to have a meaningful conversation with those in opposition to our beliefs. We seldom engage in productive dialogue, but we are quick to shout the loudest or place the most incendiary posts on social media.

We are quick to personally attack those in leadership positions with inaccurate and inflammatory comments. I am also concerned how our behavior and reactions are having an impact on our children and the lessons they are learning from our actions.

We are so involved in advocating our thoughts to others that we may not take the time to reflect on what lessons are being taught to our children by our actions. Our children are always watching us, and often our actions mold their character more than our words. When we approach situations through anger, frustration, and rage – we teach children this is an appropriate way to deal with problems. It may be more productive to engage others in civil conversations and attempt to find common ground. Perhaps talking respectfully to others would be more productive than posting comments with so many capital letters and exclamation marks. Teaching our children to resolve issues in a productive way may be one of the most important lessons to teach.

The intent of these articles is to keep our community informed about important school events. Please take a moment to review the following and contact us if you have any questions. We will answer those concerns in our next article. Please email Mrs. Karlene Webb (webbk@hcboe.net) with any concern or question.

1. Our case count remains stable this week. We have 6 active cases this week.

2. We have several people wanting to attend the School Board meeting on Monday. We will hold the meeting at the East High School auditorium at 6:00 p.m. to accommodate more people. Masks are required to attend the meeting. You will not be allowed to enter without a mask. It is also important to understand that school board policy requires people to sign up on the Thursday before the board meeting if they wish to speak. That deadline has already passed, so no additional speakers would be allowed. However, we will allow everyone to send comments, and we will make sure the board receives them. We will also forward any emails.

3. We will recommend the following to the school board concerning wearing of masks.

a. We recommend keeping the mask mandate for the remainder of this year. By Friday, we would have only 20 days of school left, and we need to do everything we can to keep our staff and students safe.

b. We recommend allowing staff/students to remove masks when participating in outdoor activities. This will include athletic events.

c. We recommend that we end the mask mandate for the upcoming school year if our numbers remain low.

d. We recommend that students be encouraged to wear a mask during summer school, but it will be optional.

4. We will increase the number of graduation tickets to 8 per family instead of 4 per family.

5. We had approximately 20 people attend the community forum on Thursday. I thought we had a good conversation, and everything remained very civil. I appreciated those who came out and the feedback they provided.

Most in the audience believe that parents should have the right to determine if their child had to wear a mask. They believed government (and the school district) was taking away some of their parental rights with the mask mandate. They also questioned the effectiveness of the masks. In addition, they questioned the CDC and the TN Department of Health and the validity of their procedures. They were very focused on making sure we did not have the mask mandate for next year. They were worried about the social/physical impacts of the masks. In addition, they expressed concern over the loss of fun experiences such as field days, honor banquets, athletics, limited number of tickets to events, etc. We did not agree with each other on several points, but I thought the conversations were respectful and productive. The audience made a number of legitimate statements, and I appreciated the comments. All comments will be forwarded to the school board.

6. I have heard this rumor several times, so I want to make our position clear on vaccinations. Personally, I have been vaccinated, and I think there are benefits associated with the vaccine. However, this is only my opinion, and I am not attempting to convince others of this viewpoint. We are not requiring staff members to become vaccinated, nor have we even had a conversation about this because we do not have the authority to make such policy. Besides, this is not our responsibility, and we firmly believe this strictly a personal decision.

7. Each year, we begin a process called, “Online Enrollment”. This is not connected with the registration process for virtual education like we had this year for students who wanted to attend school virtually. This is the process by which parents update their contact information, provide us with any changes in medical conditions, and acknowledge you have access to and/or have read student handbooks and other district documents, etc. All parents must complete this enrollment to ensure we have all the necessary documentation and contact information to start the school year. It is our hope to have the vast majority of our students complete the online enrollment process for next year before we leave for summer break.

Online Enrollment will begin on May 17 and will be very similar to what we have done in the past. Parents will be able to access the enrollment process through our Parent Portal and update all demographic information and acknowledge the reading, or at least the opportunity to read, all required documents.

We ask parents not to call for assistance from May 17 – 28. This phase of online enrollment will only be for those families able to gain access to the parent portal and complete the process independently.

We will provide assistance starting on June 1, and we will be happy to help parents at that point. Individual schools will determine how they will provide this assistance.

Each school will be a little different because of their demographics, so please watch for notifications from your school on specific directions.

A veteran superintendent had a conversation with me on my first day as superintendent. He told me that I could not live with anyone if I was unwilling to compromise on every single issue.

He also told me that I could not live with myself if I compromised my core values. The secret was to possess those core values and let them drive your decision making. We had three simple goals this year.

Keep staff/students safe, keep school open, and protect the instructional program. I have attempted to keep these goals in mind all year. I believe we have been relatively successful with these objectives, and I hope the community can appreciate our efforts.

There is still much work to be done and many new challenges. Hopefully, next year there will be a new sense of normalcy and life will be more stable.

We sincerely appreciate your attention to this article and remember, School Matters!