I don’t know about you, but somehow today really doesn’t feel like the last day of school. Then again, I imagine there is a sense of relief in knowing this day has arrived and the 2019-20 school year is, at long last, behind us. Between fires in the Fall, school closure in November due to “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” and the end of in-person instruction on March 13th due to the Coronavirus, this has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. The events of 2019-20 that allowed us to work face-to-face with your children for only 118 of our typical 180-day school year, were unprecedented. And of course, shifting instruction from the classroom to the living room these past few months, has impacted our RVSD students and adults alike, in ways we may not fully understand for some time to come. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for us all and yet, I find myself contemplating the same questions I’ve asked at the end of every year since my first as a classroom teacher,
“How will I remember 2019-20 and what have I learned?”
My hope for each of us is that we will find some time in the summer months ahead, to think about these questions and as with any reflection, we have choices in where our thinking may take us. For example, we may choose to focus on the incredibly difficult challenges we faced this year, the mistakes we made, the regrets we’ve held and our mourning over the experiences our students (and all of us) missed. It’s hard not to go there, especially when we are inundated every day by a daunting range of tragic news, events, data and information.
But we and our students have other choices about how we remember this year and what we take away from having lived it.
The other day as I stood in the White Hill parking lot for what hands-down became the most unusual graduation I’ve attended in my career, I witnessed something so profound that it jolted me from the fixed mindset I’ve frequently battled during the weeks away from direct contact with you, our Board of Trustees, my colleagues and most especially, our amazing RVSD students. What I witnessed that day was an incredible display of resilience, creativity, enthusiasm, celebration and connection. It’s hard to imagine a “drive through graduation” could have that kind of impact, but it did. From the very first student to the very last, it was as if everyone present made the collective decision to set aside thoughts of what graduation could have been and chose to instead focus on making the most of what it could become. It was a home run and from my perspective, a spectacular reminder of our strength of spirit, our determination to find the path forward and our capacity to overcome any obstacle.
I choose to remember 2019-20 as the year our students, our RVSD team and you, took all that came at us and still found the courage, will and grace to press on. The old saying about turning lemons into lemonade is an understatement. Among the many things I’ve learned this year, perhaps the most important is that pressing on brings us fresh ideas, new opportunities and exciting discoveries that will make our teaching and learning even more powerful in the months and years ahead.
So as we say “good-bye” to a school year we will never forget, I want to express my deepest respect to you for the sacrifices made and hardships endured, while continuing to support your children, each other and all of us. We are a better district and community for all you’ve done and so selflessly given.
And finally, with only a few weeks left in my career as a public educator, my heartfelt appreciation goes to you for the confidence and trust you’ve placed in me these past six years as your Superintendent. Back in January when I told our Board of my plans to retire at the end of June, I obviously had no idea I’d be leaving in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. But thanks to our Board’s tremendous strength in leadership, moral courage and unwavering commitment to all current and future RVSD students, our five amazing schools are in very good hands no matter what challenges lie ahead. I’ve also the utmost confidence in my successor, Marci Trahan, our leadership team, our certificated and classified leaders and everyone in RVSD, to build upon the many successes we’ve achieved over the years. Thank you in advance for continuing to support, advise and care for them as so many of you have done for me.
I wish you and your families good health and all the very best in the years to come. Thank you for everything.