New SPS Superintendent Weighs In On Offering An Training In A Pandemic: Half 2

In Part 1 of the KSMU interview with the new Headmistress of Springfield Public Schools, Dr. Grenita Lathan, she concluded by speaking about the impact of the pandemic on learning. This is where part 2 starts.

I’ve heard that the pandemic’s impact on learning has been particularly tougher for underprivileged and underrepresented students. As the superintendent, what will you do to ensure that children who are in these groups are not left behind?

Oh, we’re going to look at our dollars and see how our dollars have been distributed in the past and our plans for the future based on the approval of our new budget that was approved last week. But we’re going to look at that and we’re going to look at these underserved students and the underserved students and the campus and make sure that the funds are available to meet those students’ needs and catch up with those students.

And for children with special needs, the pandemic was particularly harsh. As the superintendent, what will you do to ensure that student needs are met?

Same thing. We need to rethink IEPs and that is important. You know, if the student has an IEP or special needs, we have to see what the IEP requires and make sure we follow that. In my previous district, of course, we had to conclude contracts with speech therapists, among other things, because we were scarce there. Hence, you may need to consider some contracted services to provide additional support or to make up for student time lost.

I spoke to Tracy Hines, the assistant commissioner in the learning services division of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and also to Dr. Nicole Holt, the assistant principal of Springfield Public Schools. And they both told me they’ll look at the Missouri Assessment Program or MAP test results, including internal metrics, to see how the students are doing. How important do you think these metrics will be and how should the district respond to these results?

Well, they will be very important. And that’s one of the questions I ask Dr. Holt asked last week – when will we get our results here in Missouri so we can look at them and then ask for our local assessments? But they will be important. But I’m also telling you that teacher-created and school-based assessments are just as important, especially for the teacher who is in the classroom with their students. And they also made their own review. So it’s a combination of government ratings, local ratings, and then school-based or teacher-based ratings.

What resources should teachers have available to help those who may have fallen behind in the past year?

In any case, tutoring. And when I say tutoring, it’s extra staff pushing in or pulling out students who need extra support, extra time beyond the school day or before school starts. It depends on when school starts for that particular campus. However, teachers should have access to these additional services and parents of students should have access to these additional services, but mainly through tutoring.

The pandemic was tough on the staff too, including teachers who had to go to work in person during a rather scary time. And that has led some to worry that teachers will retire early or that younger teachers will be leaving their careers. But SPS HR director Penny Rector told me she hadn’t seen this here, in part because of the district’s resources and support, including the provision of replacement workers when needed. What does the district have to do in the future to keep it that way?

Make sure we have the necessary support to assist the staff in terms of psychological support and social emotional support. But make sure we have district incentives and morals. You know, a person needs to feel included and supported, and make sure at the district level that we convey to staff how important they are to us and our students, but also make sure they have a chance to be heard.

We see here COVID-19 cases increase as the Delta variant moves through the community, particularly right now in southwest Missouri. But around 61 percent of the district residents are still not fully vaccinated. Looking ahead to the next school year, your first with the district, do you expect any editions like masking and social distancing like we saw here last year?

I see that there might be a need. And I’ll be very honest with you. You know, we have to watch and listen. Look at the dates, look at CDC guidelines, look at our county guidelines. But we may need to take some steps to get back to masking or physical distancing, especially until those numbers improve in terms of vaccination rates.

Some children are successful in learning online and will choose to stay that way for the next school year and beyond. As the new superintendent, how will you work to ensure these students continue to receive the support they need to be successful?

Well, we have a wonderful program with our launch program, so you are welcome to take advantage of our launch program. But we will only do what we can to support the students within the guidelines we have from our country.

Welcome to Springfield. Thank you for speaking to me. Many Thanks.


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