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Thursday, September 28, 2023
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As we see it: Making hard decisions

It’s not always easy to change your mind once you’ve made a decision. Forget the logistics involved in making a late change. Forget the people who get upset because they’ve already started making arrangement for the original plans. It’s hard to admit that the plans you’ve worked on might not be the best – for yourself or for others. It’s even harder to scrap all of your work, all your time and effort, and start over again from scratch on a new plan and schedule. 

It’s not easy. But good people, and especially good leaders, do so when it becomes apparent it’s what is in the best interest of others. Even if it creates more work for them. 

One example of that kind of good leadership is in the recent move by the Carter County Board of Education to go ahead and take advantage of the variable instruction calendar offered as an option by the state and push the start date of school back to the end of August. 

They did this in a special meeting on July 24, pushing the start date of school back from August 10 to August 26. The August 10 start date was already a push back from the original planned start date of August 6, but one that didn’t require a change to any other calendar items for the school year. This most recent change will definitely impact the school district’s planned timeline, and will require some revamping of the planned calendar for the school year. 

It wasn’t something Carter County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronnie Dotson was keen to recommend to the board unless it became absolutely necessary. Dotson feels – and we agree – that education is important. Every day of missed school is a day of missed opportunity for learning. Every day trimmed from the schedule for the year is a day of lost opportunity for teachers to move beyond rote learning to true comprehension. 

But more important than an extra two weeks of learning is keeping our children safe. 

Dotson and the board recognized this. They heard the concerns of parents, many of whom tuned into their meetings via the internet rather than risk attending in person. They watched the regularly rising COVID-19 infection numbers. They saw that their carefully constructed plans – even the new ones associated with this latest change – might be thrown into disarray at any time by new guidelines from the governor anyway. And they acted. 

It will mean more work for them. It will also mean a completely different and new set of complaints. There are bound to be a few parents, particularly those who need to continue working outside the home during this crisis, who won’t be as happy about the move. There will be those who think this is an overreaction and that schools need to resume as originally planned, or that the motion is politically motivated. There will be others who think this still isn’t enough and that the entire district should start the year with non-traditional instruction (NTI) through either worksheet packets or online instruction. 

Ultimately there is no move that will make everyone happy. But the board has a duty to the children they serve, and to their parents. In this case, we think they took that duty seriously and made the best decision they could with the information they had. 

So, we commend the Carter County Board of Education for looking at the trend of climbing COVID-19 infections, listening to the words of parents, and choosing to push the start date back to August 26. It may not be ideal, but little has been with 2020. All any of us, including the school board, can do is make the best decisions we can based on the information we have. 

We’re confident that this is what the Carter County Board of Education and superintendent Dotson are trying to do.



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