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These are challenging times, but in some ways they have brought out the best in our people

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Scott CooperCrook County residents are living in extraordinary times. Our school buildings are closed, our seniors have graduated months ahead of schedule, the streets are empty of all but essential traffic and our local businesses that should be promoting flowers for prom, restaurant catering for graduation parties and outdoor gear for sixth grade camp are also closed as we hunker down, hoping the corona virus will avoid our town.

Even in darkness, however, there are pockets of light. Crook County School board at its regular board meeting Monday, April 13, took time to recognize and address some groups especially affected:

Our students: These are disruptive times. In the space of a few weeks, they've had to adjust to school without friends, moving from one-on-one instruction to electronic instruction, from lives that centered around school to lives where school was just another part of life. Our seniors have had to forego rites of passage, our athletes have given up another season of glory, and our students involved in drama, music and other activities won't get a chance to show us their truly impressive talents.

Your board, administration and staff are sad. We see this. It hurts us, too, and watching you handle it bravely and make the best of it doesn't make it easier; it makes it worse. We pledge to you that while we can't restore everything, we will all we can to give back as much as we can, including a graduation ceremony, a senior week, a prom and a sixth grade camp experience.

Our parents: Parents had to become educators with little warning and no training. This is home-schooling on a whole new scale, and unlike home-school educators who had a chance to decide to volunteer, our parents had no opportunity to think this over. Your engagement, your questions, your involvement and support are making difference for students, even as you simultaneously have to worry about employment, bills and health of yourself and your loved ones. Thank you for all you are doing to support your kids. Schools are built on many foundations: teachers, administrators, facilities, support staff, community support and instructional strategies are all important but research says that parental engagement, support and involvement is one of the most important indicators of whether a student will succeed. Because of you, your children will succeed.

Our teachers: Before Pandemic 2020, some people criticized public educators as "stuck in the mud" and unable to innovate. Crook County teachers proved the critics very, very wrong in a manner of days. With barely any notice, teachers put together new curriculum, taught themselves new technologies for delivery, figured out how to deliver content via multiple routes to ensure that all children could continue to learn, demonstrated deep understanding of and commitment to the principles of equity. With no warning, you were asked to be the consummate professionals your credentials said you were. You gave us more than we could ever have hoped for, allowing Crook County students to start online learning a full two weeks ahead of their peers statewide. Thank you on behalf of a grateful school board and community.

Our classified staff: Some children only eat because schools feed them. Some children have no access to internet or technology without schools. Schools are so much more than a classroom, a teacher and a book. Classified staff jumped into the pandemic by converting cafeteria food to a door-dash delivery system. Bus drivers became the lifeline for daily meal delivery. Technology staff transformed the entire student body into technology-equipped, digital learners and offered the tech support to keep it running. Even the school busses became rolling "hot spots" with help from Facebook grants and a private donor.

Front desk staff field questions and greet children at the door with packets of copied work when they don't have internet. Special education staff are keeping communication flowing about meeting the needs of learners who need a little extra support. Facilities staff put themselves on the front lines between those who still must come to work and a lethal virus. These behind-the-scenes workers are front-line in making sure your children get the education they deserve.

Our administrators: Crook County was weeks ahead of other districts in launching on-line learning. Administrators have been creative and diligent about reaching out to students and parents alike to let them know what was coming next. Our communications team using Facebook, Tic Toc have been first-rate, first-class and actually fun. Building administrators have used telephone and email to make sure students and parents are kept in the loop about rapidly changing developments.

Systems such as HR and Finance have found new ways to do business that maintain cash flow and job certainty in very uncertain times. Nothing has been the same since March 13, yet in some ways we have never been better, due to the extraordinary leadership of Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joel Hoff and the entire admin team. The school board knew that we had made some amazing hires over the course of the last few years. The last few weeks have confirmed our belief that we have the best team in Oregon at a time when we needed it most.

These are challenging times and I think we all look forward to them ending soon, so that we can got back to normal, but in some ways they have brought out the best in our people. They have given us glimpses of the souls of the people who work for us, and in those souls we see courage, competence, compassion and cooperation that have led to levels of coordination and innovation that are truly amazing.

To each of our groups of hometown school heroes, thank you very much. I and my fellow school board members stand amazed and have never been so proud.


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