Gratitude and Updates

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Gratitude and Updates

To: Superintendents

Date:  May 10, 2021

From: Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education

RE: Gratitude and Updates


I’m writing this message directly to superintendents. As we near the end of one of the most difficult years any of us has lead through, I wanted to reach out with a message of acknowledgement and gratitude. You have been and continue to be the leader your staff, your students, your families, and your community needs in this time. We have experienced extreme hardships. Many of us, I include myself here, have experienced some painful failures and/or harsh criticism. I believe each of us has dug deep into our beings this year and we have worked incredibly hard to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

We have all pushed boundaries to provide a steady voice and keep those we lead safe while also providing desperately needed services. We have all explained and re-explained plans and protocols. And, many of us have suffered loss through this past 14 months with COVID-19. Many of us have also seen our personal health take a toll with the long hours, the stress, and the many challenges of leading in this time.

Thank you for getting-up each day. Thank you for facing the challenge head on. Thank you for the deep care you hold for your students, you employees, and your community. Each of us are human, we reach our limits at times, and mistakes will happen. However, I believe, without doubt, that our students and staff have been at the forefront of your decisions this year and our communities are in a better place because of your service.

Early on in this pandemic, a little over a year ago, I shared this NYT’s piece by Thomas Friedman and Dov Seidman titled, We Need Great Leadership Now, and Here’s What It Looks Like. It focused on three attributes those we lead need most of all from us in this time: Truth, hope, and humility. I think you have delivered. I share this with you now, because our work has not gotten any easier this spring as patience in our communities runs dry. Many around us are done with COVID-19, while it is clear that COVID-19 is not done with us. My hope is that as you close the school year and look forward to the next that you can lean into truth, hope, and humility to pull your district through these last few weeks.

Your jobs are lonely ones. No one else in your community carries the load you do. Remember to lean on one another. Remember to make time for one another and offer space, grace, and patience for the unique aspects of your colleagues’ circumstances. I believe Oregon’s community of superintendents is stronger than ever, with thanks to each of you as leaders and to COSA for the support they provide and the space they hold. As our work gets more complex, more emotional, and more consequential…lean into this community, it can be your source of trust, hope, and humility.

Thanks for indulging me with that message. It is sincere. And yet, I know you look to these messages for timely information as well:

  • Today is the Summer Learning and Enrichment Grant application deadline. It is as simple to complete as we could possibly manage. If you hope to provide some summer support, please apply before midnight. You can do this, even if you have not opened the document yet.
  • Last weekend OHA mandated new 14-day quarantine periods. Until further notice, we no longer have the option for shorter quarantine periods.
  • On Friday we released updated guidance for overnight field trips and outdoor school.
  • The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act ESSER III allocations are out. Please know we will send more information soon as we learn about new requirements related to the use of these funds.
  • Last week Oregon OSHA sent a notice that they extended their COVID-19 workplace protections. This notice contained this line, “Dramatically reducing the K-12 schools appendix and removing all references to cohorts and square footage limitations, as well as physical distancing between students.” This has caused confusion in some communities. Regardless of Oregon OSHA rule changes, the Ready Schools, Safe Learners (RSSL) requirements remain mandatory for schools under Governor Brown’s Executive Order 21-06.
  • Finally, in the coming weeks we will be sharing key changes we see coming for the 2021-22 school year. These will have an emphasis on returning to full-time in-person instruction with attention to unfinished learning, acceleration, and a renewal of what education can be to meet the needs of all of our students. As we have learned through the past year, these plans always come with the caveat of future change to attend to current COVID-19 conditions and updated mitigation information. We look forward to engaging with you and refining these ideas in the coming days.