Gadsden ISD Uses Transparency to Serve Students, Families, and Staff
The secret of an effective school district is transparency, and Gadsden ISD has successfully used transparency to serve students, parents, and staff during this pandemic that is changing the very face of education.
But what exactly does transparency mean to Gadsden ISD? It is a multi-fold definition that points to GISD talking to students, talking to parents, talking to administrators, and, most importantly, communicating with the Board of Trustees.
Now throw in the unanticipated problem of providing that transparency in the era of COVID-19 and all the concerns that brings from those same key audiences the district must bring in to make decisions that are not top-down but rather bottom-up.
Starting a school year strictly online and all the multitude of complex factors that entails is daunting. Gone are the days of summer inservice, promoting the start of school, preparing the building for the influx of students, talking to parents registering and touring their students’ schools, and perhaps more painfully, not shaking hands and guiding students with a gentle gesture.
The pandemic put a new light on all those traditions. The pandemic put a new light on instruction, professional relationships, parent involvement, volunteers, community relationships, and with those entities, we considered partners in education.
Gadsden ISD has put its collective nose to the grindstone all summer developing relationships with all administrators who joined in on various committees to put together what is, in reality, the very definition of transparency…a guide map to re-entry for the 2020-21 school year. Meeting throughout the summer, Superintendent Travis Dempsey guided administrators through complex topics of getting ready for school in a pandemic. That re-entry plan was displayed for all employees to see in August and welcomed comments, corrections, additions as provided by anyone, and everyone who read it.
The plan as to how the school year would look was not decided by the central office. Instead, Superintendent Dempsey held a variety of YouTube presentations soliciting comments and corrections so that everyone in the district knew the plan was a living document able to be amended as quickly as this pandemic required.
To that challenge, add the distribution of about 8,000 Chromebooks, 3,000 hotspots, and a Technology Department committed to connecting a district that was separated by one mountain and one county line. In essence, the 28 educational facilities in the district now had to have consistent and effective connectivity. That is a monumental challenge even in the best of times.
Teachers were concerned with safety, sanitized schools, and an effective plan for online instruction. Parents were worried about what the school would look like and would their students also be safe along with their teachers.
Several surveys aimed at certified staff and employees went out to collect their concerns. A month-long survey for parents had almost 6,000 responses with their decision of whether they wanted online instruction or a hybrid model.
Parents responded with 50% requesting an online model and 50 percent requesting a hybrid format. Teachers likewise responded on their survey with about 50% requesting an online assignment and 50% requesting to teach in the classroom also an online format.
What is sometimes forgotten in these complex times are the Gadsden ISD support employees who are also the heroes of this epoch. Support personnel cleaned and sanitized school facilities in preparation for the return of staff and students as recommended in September. There isn’t enough praise for the Student Nutritional Personnel who have provided and continue to provide thousands of meals to students even during remote learning. School nurses who are on the frontlines as their role now takes on a critical responsibility in monitoring and assisting in the maintenance of health for all students and staff.
Without this transparency, the Gadsden ISD Board of Trustees would not have been able to make critical decisions this summer that supported the success schools in the district have had in this remote start. Perhaps theirs is the decision that affects the lives of all students and staff. Their roles are founded in transparency.
In Gadsden ISD, transparency means student success, teacher success, support services success, and parental success.
About the SUCCESS Partnership:
The SUCCESS Partnership is prenatal to career readiness education initiative founded in 2013. The collaborative is supported by a diverse group of over 100 cross-sector organizations comprised of parents, education professionals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, regional partners, and community leaders who are committed to improving educational outcomes in Dona Ana County. The primary support organizations for the SUCCESS Partnership collaborative are Ngage New Mexico, La Clinica de Familia Family Services, and NMSU Center for Community Analysis.
For more information about the SUCCESS Partnership, contact info@NgageNM.org