May 8, 2020 – (Note: Below is a message of encouragement from Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene to Team Duval families. It was originally shared via email to families on May 7.)
Our Facebook community wasn’t very pleased with us last week.
Our followers vigorously shared their disagreement when we announced the district would use three weather days as school days at the end of the academic year to be compliant with state rules governing the length of the school year. We have some good news on that topic.
This week, the Department of Education (DOE) granted our request for a waiver to end school on May 29 as originally planned in the academic calendar. We no longer need the extra three days.
While I am thankful to the DOE for the waiver, the episode revealed just a little of the tension that exists across our broad school family — parents, teachers, staff, and students — as we continue to endure COVID-19’s impact on our lives. For many families, schoolwork has increased the stress of this pandemic season.
School Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Andersen, also a licensed mental health therapist, effectively addressed the stressful challenges of these times during her report at a recent school board meeting. One of her themes was, “Practice radical self-acceptance — you cannot fail at this. There is no road map; no one has experienced this before.”
As I shared with our employees last week, sometimes we can be hardest on ourselves. I’ve been walking in the evenings — it’s a great way to get out of the house and feel like there is nothing wrong in the world. Normally, I don’t find time to walk consistently, so this has been a nice change. And since I have also been walking away from the refrigerator, I incorrectly assumed I would see the results in my weekly weigh-in. Radical self-acceptance, along with my Fitbit merit badge, reminds me that although I’m not seeing the results on the scale, I am becoming healthier — and I’ve walked from Jacksonville to Orlando and back since January. I’ll up my daily goal from 2 miles to 3 and accept my progress and improved health as my victory.
Setbacks, challenges, disappointments, and even flat-out failures should not cloud the success you have had as your children’s instructional guide during the pandemic drama. Whatever learning is happening, whatever you are managing to get done, and how ever your family is persevering, consider it a victory. Two months ago, we all had almost no experience in virtual learning. Today, thanks in large part to your perseverance and a great deal of teacher innovation and willpower, we’ve connected academically with almost every one of our 130,000 students. We have conducted more than 6 million live virtual learning sessions, and our daily attendance has actually gone up compared to traditional school.
To all of you moms, dads, grandparents, guardians, and others who continue to endure this challenge, I invite you to join me in being radically self-accepting. Accept whatever you have accomplished with your children as victory, and receive this as a socially distant-appropriate high-five. With just three weeks remaining in the school year, keep managing the best you can, celebrate your victories, and know that I am extraordinarily appreciative of your effort.
Dr. Diana Greene