main content starts hereSuperintendent Update: May 1, 2020

| May 1, 2020

Dear Parents, Faculty and Staff,

     This week brings a number of updates that affect or will affect Mohonasen.  The item of most interest to Mohonasen families is the governor’s announcement earlier today that schools are closed for the remainder of the school year.  The governor asked that districts “reimagine” how schools will look and operate when they do open and he will require written plans where schools address the following:

  • How districts will monitor the spread of COVID-19;
  • How districts will instill parental confidence that their children will be safe;
  • How extracurricular activities will re-open;
  • To develop protocols for special education students;
  • How districts will ensure that the mental health needs of students are addressed;
  • Consider alternative school calendar approaches.

     A number of additional updates are as follows:

  • All Spring sports, as of today, are canceled.
  • August Regents exams are canceled.  This is in addition to the earlier announcement that the June Regents exams are canceled.
  • Regional summer school (High School) and elementary summer school, such as Summer Stars, have not been fully worked out as the governor indicated he would issue directives about summer school by the end of May.  At the high school level, Capital Region BOCES has indicated that if the Governor allows summer school, that their plan is to host this regionally and entirely online.  It was originally planned to be hosted in person right here at Mohonasen.  Once the governor releases his rules for summer school we will then decide what we can offer at Mohonasen and what that will look like in terms of remote or on-campus learning. 
  • Interim Commissioner of Education in New York State, Shannon Tahoe, along with the Board of Regents Chancellor, Betty Rosa, announced on Wednesday that they would be forming a statewide task force to plan for the reopening of schools in New York State for the 2020 – 2021 school year.  No further details are yet available.  The governor is also assembling a task force, so there will be two groups working on this at the state level.
  • Budget News: There is a public debate in the media between federal legislators and state governors regarding the next phase in stimulus funding.  Politics has reared its ugly head with some on the federal side claiming they shouldn’t have to bail out New York State for its poor fiscal budgeting and planning practices with others noting that New York State contributes more to the federal government each year than it takes in.  Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the implications for Mohonasen could be significant.  While we are moving ahead to adopt the district budget for next year, knowing that we will require heavy use of district reserve funds, the possibility of future mid-year aid adjustments from the governor is certainly a concern depending on the amount of any such reductions.  The truth is that we just don’t know if such mid-year reductions will happen, how much of a loss in revenue that may mean, what the nature and amount of any additional stimulus funds for NYS will be (for schools in particular) and what other large budget variables might be affected going forward.  For now, as I have presented at our Board meetings and in the local news media, my intention is to “press pause”, use reserve funds, maintain programming and offerings for students, and to see where our main budgetary variables are at next year when we are planning the 2021 – 2022 budget.  I suspect a lot will change between now and then.
  • The news on the medical front is constantly evolving but appears to me to be trending in a positive direction.  Medical professionals have been learning more about how to both prevent and treat COVID-19 infections.  Some once-promising treatments have been discarded after they proved not to be as effective as hoped, while other treatments have ramped up and are showing great promise.  The same is true for the development of a vaccine; that is showing a lot of promise, but still takes time to develop and run through clinical trials.  There doesn’t appear to be any disagreement that more and more effective treatments are in progress and there is consensus that a vaccine will be successfully developed. Although this is not a “right now” answer, I find this very encouraging as it reassures me that there will be a definitive resolution to this pandemic.  
  • Transition plans have started in various countries and different states in America.  A “reopening” is in progress and we are all learning from different successes and failures within the reopenings.  This is a hotly debated subject in the news media at the moment.  On the one hand, you have countries like Sweden experiencing some level of success at a broad and liberal reopening with safety precautions aimed primarily at the most vulnerable members of the population.  Others claim this approach is foolhardy and that widespread restrictions are necessary and very gradual adjustments/loosening is the proper way to go.  Civil rights groups are protesting the restrictions on their freedom as a result of the stay at home rules and regulations.  Others contend that you don’t have a “right” to jeopardize someone else’s health.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue of restrictions and the best approach to reopening, this debate includes specifics that will likely impact how Mohonasen reopens.  Thoughts and opinions regarding this range widely.  I read an interesting article yesterday titled,  “Children ‘likely do not play a significant role’ in passing coronavirus to adults, study suggests.”  If that turns out to be true then the details of reopening could look very different than if children are potentially strong carriers of the coronavirus.  Ultimately, the governor is responsible for outlining the parameters we will function under and, hopefully, he will rely on the most up to date and accurate health information possible.  The reopening commission announced by the Commissioner and the Chancellor, in addition to the governor’s commission, will be tasked with recommending the best path forward which may differ for different regions of the state.  The bad news is that there is much contention regarding those specifics, but the good news is that the statewide commissions are being formed to work on the specifics of reopening school in the fall and we are learning more every day, so our reentry plans should end up being quite robust.  I choose to focus on the good news.
  • High School Graduation remains a topic of great interest to our seniors and their families.  High School Principal Mr. Chandler has engaged the seniors and their families directly with a survey regarding some different options for graduation.  Some of this will depend upon the governor’s rules and regulations and how favorable they are to the different options being discussed.  Mr. Chandler is forming a stakeholder group to review the results of the survey and to determine the best course of action.  Assemblyman Santabarbara has reached out to the governor with a letter seeking specific guidance and latitude to ensure that we can have graduation even if the format is different from our traditional ceremony.  If you have thoughts on this and you haven’t expressed them yet, please reach out to Mr. Chandler to provide your input, cchandler@mohonasen.org.

A famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, one of my personal favorites, came to my mind today when I heard the governor’s decision that schools will continue to operate remotely for the duration of this school year.  I have highlighted two specific phrases and sections within the poem as they strike me as most applicable at the moment.  These sections give me strength and my hope is that they may resonate with you as well.  

Best Regards,

Shannon Shine 

Superintendent

                               IF

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!