Some Pasco County School board members and the president of the employee union took a few moments during the board’s June 1 meeting to reflect on efforts made during this previous school year — to cope with challenges posed by COVID-19.
Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, summed up the last school year this way:
“Well, we made it. A most inconvenient, challenge-filled year is now finished.
“We didn’t make it without cost. We lost a few pretty special people along the way.
“There were some students who never really connected, and the mental taxation to all of us was monumental.
“Despite all of this, I thought we planned and executed a pretty remarkable year.
“Compared to districts and states around the country, who never returned to school, Pasco is light years ahead in giving our students the best educational opportunity to move forward, under extraordinary circumstances,” Peace said.
School board member Cynthia Armstrong agreed with Peace’s assessment.
“It was a tough year. I don’t think any of us ever want to go through anything like this again.
“We still were able to accomplish some amazing things.
“A lot of life lessons were learned by everyone, including the students,” Armstrong said.
“I really want to thank all of the students and staff at all of the schools for everything they did to help keep our students safe this year, (and to) make sure that learning and extracurricular activities continued,” Armstrong said.
Peace echoed that appreciation, giving kudos to teachers, support personnel, district staff, community partners, parents and grandparents for their help during a difficult year.
School board member Colleen Beaudoin also expressed gratitude for the flexibility demonstrated by school leaders, in light of changing circumstances.
“I know it’s not easy, but they have adapted,” Beaudoin said.
Peace said he knows the coming year will be challenging on the financial front, particularly because much of the state money coming to the district must be spent in specific ways.
The union leader also formally requested that USEP be included in discussions over how federal money, provided in COVID-19 relief, is spent in the district.
Regarding district spending, Beaudoin asked if the district can seek to reduce paper costs.
“Can we move more toward using less paper?” Beaudoin said, noting that during the pandemic, the district has increased its use of an electronic learning management system called CANVAS.
Superintendent Kurt Browning said the district has spent more than $10 million on CANVAS, so he’s a big proponent of using that system.
In conversations, he said, he has asked: “Why should we not, and I use the word, mandate, CANVAS in our schools. And, I still have some pushback. Right, wrong or indifferent. But with a district our size — we’re talking about ninth, 10th largest district in the state — we consume a great deal of paper.”
Browning said he wouldn’t favor going to a paperless system, but agrees the district could use less paper.
Beaudoin agreed: “I’m not advocating for not using any paper. Especially in math, I think it’s really important that kids be able to write on their tests. I wasn’t saying, ‘I don’t want any paper.’ I was just thinking there are some things that you can post.
“I remember in elementary school, my kids coming home with tons of things that could have been in an email, or could have been (on) a half a sheet of paper,” she said.
Browning said the district is making progress on that front. “We’re getting there. Every year, we’re getting better.”
The district is “very sensitive to the amount of materials,” the superintendent said.
As a matter of fact, Browning said he would be meeting with district staff about department budgets following the board meeting to address cuts that will be needed to avoid a deficit in the coming year’s spending plan.
Published June 09, 2021