BOULDER, CO (April 16, 2020) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews a group of five educators and activists about their experiences serving children, schools, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chris speaks with Jillian McRae, a high school teacher at Ossining High School in Ossining, New York; Ann Dealy, an elementary school principal at Brookside School in Ossining, New York; Saa’un Bell, a community activist and organizer with the community organization Californians for Justice; Kyle Serrette, a senior policy analyst with the National Education Association (NEA); and Keith Catone, the executive director of the Center for Youth and Community Leadership in Education (CYCLE) at Roger Williams University.
The group discusses the unique ways that the pandemic has interrupted the normal interactions between students and teachers, administrators and personnel, and schools and communities. Educators McRae and Dealy describe their efforts to support vulnerable students and staff and to maintain social and emotional connections with students despite the physical distance that separates them. Their accounts demonstrate how teachers, administrators, and parents are struggling, but also how they are pulling together to make the best of a challenging situation.
Similarly, Bell argues that, while the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated inequality and injustice that already existed, communities are hopeful that our society can learn from the difficult lessons of this experience. Catone explains that this moment can teach us about the value of public schools in times of crisis. He contends that in order for our recovery from the crisis to be strong, we must prioritize public schools and acknowledge their value as centers of democracy and community. Serrette discusses the value of the community schools model for addressing the challenges posed by school closures and their eventual reopening. He explains how community schools help schools identify and address student and family needs.
The interview concludes with recommendations from the group for how schools and communities can cope with the current crisis and move forward. They again point to the power of a community-schools approach to address the forthcoming challenges, note the contribution that families and parents are making to ensure that schools remain functional, and also recommend that we involve communities in the design of public schools now and after the pandemic passes. They also recommend that we focus on the voices of young people, who remind us that there is always hope for a better future.
A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through June.
Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.
Coming Next Month
In May, Chris will be speaking with Dr. Frank Adamson, an assistant professor of education at California State University, Sacramento. Dr. Adamson is an expert in the privatization of public education in the US and international contexts.
Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.