Listening to Alena Zachery-Ross, Superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools in Michigan, managing her district through this pandemic almost sounds like a positive story.
In this conversation with eSchool News, Alena recalls her strategies for success. From a new appreciation for student voice to closer interactions with the wider community, her ideas will help any district not only survive, but thrive, in these times.
The following has been edited for clarity.
eSN: Talk a little bit about the importance of social-emotional learning. Is that something that has changed? Has it accelerated during COVID?
AZR: It was always essential for us to have it for students. What’s been different is now we’re serving the whole family. One thing that we did was bring in National Association of Mental Health. They did workshops in a town hall style and people joined on Zoom. We actually had a jazz night for our families, just had a night to listen to jazz. And in between we gave talks about how to support their students. We brought in a social worker and had her to talk at one of the town halls. So that’s what it is. It feels like our responsibility. And as a matter of fact, I have to make sure the teachers [are] mentally healthy. Are they getting filled up so they can go and give to the students?
eSN: The idea of digital equity is also an issue that is front and center. What does that phrase mean to you?