Dear Students, Parents, Families and Colleagues,
As of now, there are only a few hours remaining in this 2019/2020 school year. While far different from any prior school year, reaching this point remains an accomplishment and a cause for united celebration. Perhaps more than ever, the achievements of this school year required a level of collaboration that far superseded any of our previous educational efforts. In the course of one week in mid-March, our nation and state collectively changed as the COVID-19 Coronavirus began to spread. It was a week, a month, and a season that none of us will ever forget. Yet, in the midst of the challenges, glimmers of hope emerged. Our collective understanding of the term hero was redefined and honored each evening at 8:00pm. Kitchen tables became student desks as parents and educators continually endeavored together to connect on behalf of our children. We relearned the value of reaching out to one another, even if only in a digital sense. Together, we shared, laughed, and cried as we collectively worked to sort out what was occurring locally, nationally, and internationally.
On behalf of all of my colleagues here in the Helena Public Schools, I want to say thank you.
Thank you to the parents, guardians and families that worked day and night to transcend the ominous challenges of these past few months. You juggled the concurrent demands of work and home with the new challenge of remote learning and did so all while navigating your family through an ongoing pandemic. Your heroic efforts occurred within the walls of your homes and far from the spotlight of public recognition. You made sacrifices and on behalf of our entire community, I honor all that you did for the benefit of your family and our community.
To our students, you continue to be the reason that we rise each day. You are our collective hope for the future and our enduring belief in brighter days to come. These last three months are far from what we wanted for you but somehow, I believe that these challenges will make us stronger as a nation, state, and community. Think of the good that you have seen and experienced amidst the concurrent pandemics of COVID-19 and the ongoing pain of systemic racism. We have been conditioned to believe that heroes wear capes and possess powers far greater than average humans. In truth, heroes exist within your household and make daily sacrifices to ensure that you are loved and cared for in every regard. Heroes pushed to figure out how to use Teams and Zoom to connect with their beloved students. Heroes went to work, against their own fears in the middle of a pandemic, to ensure that their communities were provided food, needed supplies, and healthcare. Yes, we are working through challenging times, but these same heroes are coming together in an effort to build a better future. You are that future and I honor you for who you are and who you will grow to become.
Finally, to my colleagues in education, thank you for resilience and unwavering commitment. I was raised by an educator who worked day and night for children that I never met. Her lifelong efforts made a significant impression on me, yet the collective benefit of her work remained abstract to me as a child. It was not until I attempted to put on those same shoes that I came to understand the unique passion that is required of someone who has committed their life to the education of others. You are and will always be my inspiration. To those who are retiring this year, thank you for committing your life’s work to the children and families of Helena. You have literally molded our community and positively shaped far more than the lives of your students. To my colleagues in the Helena Public Schools, I honor you for remaining steadfast in your efforts to provide our students with the opportunities that they rightfully deserve.
As we journey together into the coming months, there is a bit of relief that comes with the idea of warm sunshine and the indescribable beauty of Montana in the summer. As we do so, we also acknowledge the untold rigors that remain ahead of us as a community, state, and nation. However, I am more optimistic than ever that we can and will collectively overcome these challenges as we strive together to improve the physical and emotional health of our nation.
Personally, I have been challenged across these last three months beginning with the outbreaks of COVID-19 in February and March and again in late May with the horrific images of George Floyd’s death. I have been confronted with the ongoing realization that I have not done enough across my lifetime to ensure our country’s promise of liberty and justice for all. Thoughts must be followed by words – Words must be followed by action – Action must be followed by continued action. If not, the pain and suffering caused by discrimination and injustice will continue and this is an outcome we cannot accept in any regard. I am heartened by the positive voices and actions felt across our country in recent weeks and commit to acting in solidarity against racism and injustice in every regard as an educator, parent, and citizen. In this present time, we have great individual and shared power to right, once and for all, the historic and systemic injustice of racism. I appreciate your support as we collectively endeavor to deliver this promise to our children.
In closing, I wish each of you a safe, healthy, and rejuvenating summer. It is an honor to serve the students, families, and community of Helena and I remain thankful for the opportunity. My best to you and your loved ones.
Superintendent, Helena Public Schools