We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.
Dear CTU Brothers and Sisters,
Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” CTU members, we certainly have experienced many of these so-called opportunities! The dangers of COVID-19 and the pandemic challenged our schools and our society. Now it’s up to us to use these challenges as opportunities to make lasting improvements for our students and our profession.
I took office as CTU President in April 2020 in a virtual swearing-in ceremony during a Zoom Delegate Assembly---certainly not the scenario I expected! The world had shut down seemingly overnight. Education and most human interaction moved online, to try to stop the spread of a new deadly virus and save lives. With no warning, CMSD educators adapted to online at-home enrichment and learning. We refined virtual teaching and learning as the 2020-2021 school year began. Then, thanks to life-saving vaccines and smart mitigation strategies that enabled our schools and communities to slowly, safely, open up, we gradually moved back to in-person school.
Fortunately, as professional public-school educators, adapting and making the challenging possible are just some of our specialties. CTU members demonstrated their resilience, creativity, and professionalism as they continued to educate and support Cleveland’s kids---and families---through unimaginable circumstances.
Although challenges continue, we---CTU and CMSD---are in a better place than many other districts. We are incredibly fortunate that the union and district have worked together, and continue to do so, to put safety first. We followed the science and data. At this time, we have mask requirements in every building. We have Building Safety Teams, protocols, and strategies in place to identify, address, and correct safety issues quickly and effectively. But I’ve said many times, it will take all of us working together to keep staff and students safe. We need everyone’s cooperation.
The 2021-2022 school year also brings novel opportunities for us as professional educators. The 2021 Summer Learning Experiences provided some unique, innovative educational programs for teachers, students, and families that we hope to build on during the school year. Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, our students have increased access to music, art, and physical education activities. A full-time health professional will be able to promptly address health concerns in every school. As CMSD and CTU implement many positive items in the new CBA, and we return to full-time, in-person school, our future is bright.
What lessons did we learn during the pandemic? What educational strategies worked well for our students? How can we best improve our school communities? How can we help address some of the deep educational inequities the pandemic exposed so starkly? We have a golden opportunity to use the reopening and this school year to create a new and better “normal,” to turn challenges into opportunities. This is a special moment---what will we do with it?
To change the status quo for the better will take all of us, working together. Union members understand the importance of solidarity, our invincible strength when we stand together. I’m proud to represent every CTU member as we work together in solidarity to keep our Cleveland Teachers Union strong, and to make the Cleveland Metropolitan School District a better district for educators, students, and families. As the pandemic taught us, even when isolated, we truly are in this together. Together, let’s make this a great school year. Thank you for all you do for Cleveland children.