Dear Shawsheen Parents/Guardians:
The decision to invite students back to school while COVID-19 continues to be part of our everyday lives has been the hardest one I’ve had to make in my 27+ years as a school leader. I’ve spent weeks trying to find the right balance between safety and risk; between shop and academics; between face-to-face and remote instruction; between the needs of our freshmen and our seniors; between the needs of our staff and the needs of our students. Night after sleepless night, I pondered this multi-variable Calculus problem, trying to find the sweet spot – that one place where all these competing variables came into perfect balance. Finally, in a moment of clarity, I remembered one of Aesop’s Fables, this one called The Man, The Boy and The Donkey:
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market.
As they were walking along, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way.
But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and the Man got on the Donkey himself.
But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey.
By this time, they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them.
The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.
The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do.
They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.
They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole.
In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none”
Like the man and the boy in the fable, I was trying to please all. My epiphany happened when I accepted the fact that there is no perfect solution to this problem. So, the solution we offer provides parents with the choice. This fall, we are returning to school using the Hybrid Model which will allow an opportunity all of our students to be physically present in-school for their entire shop week and participate remotely for their entire academic week. For those families who are uncomfortable having their student being physically present in school, they can opt out and have their student participate 100% remotely. We will work diligently to make the 100% remote experience as close to the hybrid experience as possible. We will also offer a limited number of students identified as high-needs the opportunity to be physically present in school every shop AND academic week. Details on all of these options are included in this plan document.
Finally, I want to share a few personal observations. While I have only been Superintendent-Director of Shawsheen for 5 weeks now, I’ve already come to learn what a special place Shawsheen is. Shawsheen is led by a highly-talented and passionate group of educational leaders. Shawsheen’s teaching staff believes in the school’s mission and are willing to go far-above the call of duty for their students. Shawsheen enjoys an engaged and connected group of parents and guardians who, with only a handful of exceptions, have been patient, understanding and supportive of our efforts to reopen school. And finally, the Shawsheen students with whom I’ve interacted love their school and want to come back. The one word used by all of these groups to describe Shawsheen is “family.” Thank you for welcoming me to the RamFam. Like a family, we’ll have our moments of disagreement, but we all want what’s best for Shawsheen. I firmly believe this plan achieves that goal and I look forward to working with Shawsheen’s leaders, teachers and staff, parents and guardians, and students to make it a success. Working together, Shawsheen will weather this storm and our students will emerge stronger and more resilient as a result.
Bradford L. Jackson, Ed.D.
Read the Tech’s full reopening plan HERE.
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