by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

T.S. Eliot once wrote, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

We are quickly nearing the end of another school year and the start of year-end events and celebrations. What is the end of one part of our students’ journey is in fact the beginning of another, whether that means a new class, grade, school or moving onto college, career, the armed forces or a combination of activities. This is one of my favorite times of the year, as we simultaneously prepare to wind down and wind up.

This has been a dynamic year like no other in public education. I reflect on our efforts to keep our school buildings open and to sustain the power and promise of K-12 education.

There are many to thank for these efforts, from our parents and guardians to our school staff and volunteers. We also thank our county health departments, colleges, and other community-based partners for their support.

It indeed takes a village to raise a child, and our schools are often the center of our communities, a place where we come together and where our children learn the importance of learning, not only in K-12 but throughout their lives.

This is not to say that it has been an easy year. On the contrary, it has been a difficult year in many ways, with changing COVID guidance and conditions, including masks, vaccination, and testing just to name a few. In some ways, this was the most difficult year of the pandemic, it is also the year when we begin to normalize things again.

Ultimately, we have been working (and we continue to work) to ensure that we offer the best instructional model possible – in-person – to support the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our students. While this is the second full year of the pandemic, it is our third school year affected by the pandemic. This has caused heartaches and headaches alike, however; it has not diminished the importance of building community around our schools.

As you know, COVID has significantly impacted our students, staff, and operations. We see this impact locally with additional money being spent to combat the pandemic including mental health and learning loss.

Next week, residents across the region and state will vote on their local school district’s budget and elect members to the school board. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with your district’s budget proposal, the candidates running for your school board and to vote on May 17. These budgets also include separate federal funding to support additional pandemic needs related to learning loss and increased mental health needs.

While some may look at school budget as an expense this is an opportunity to reframe this perspective – to look at it as an investment in the future of our students, communities, and our economy. As we prepare for the remaining weeks of the 2021-22 school year, I ask you to think about the importance of our public schools. If there was ever a time we must celebrate our schools, and the people inside, it is now. Our students and communities have navigated hurdles over the past three school years like never before.

As District Superintendent of the BOCES in Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties I remain committed to working with our superintendents, school boards, and others to provide the best education possible. We thank you for your support during this tumultuous school year and look forward to celebrating the end and beginning of many better things to come.

This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.

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