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From SAIS President Debra Wilson - September 2020

Wednesday, September 9, 2020  
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Debra Wilson
SAIS President

Hello Friends!

Labor Day is in the rearview mirror as we start to round the corner of the calendar toward the end of 2020. I hesitate to point out that for the last three years the greater Charleston, SC, area has been in the throes of hurricane recovery or preparation and yet, at the moment, we are engaged in neither. However, 2020 is not the year to let one’s guard down and so we did give the generator a whirl this weekend.

Why do I bring this up? Now is not the time for us to let-up on a variety of fronts. First, we have all started the school year in one form or another, but the majority of our schools have an on-campus component. As we have discussed at a number of roundtables, the initial return to campus and the classroom (inside and out) has been fueled by anxiety, adrenalin, and a community spirit of getting it right. Now that we are back on campus, it is easy to start to let those safety standards slide, particularly if your area is seeing virus levels drop to less alarming levels. Do remember that the processes and procedures you have in place are safety steps and that failing to follow them can lead to both outbreaks and liability. They are your school’s safety standards, often set by guidance from local, state, or national health officials. Sliding away from them without conscious policy change and reasoning creates greater risk of harm and liability.

Second, as school leaders, you need to re-trench to the strategic for your school and you need to work with your board to be in this place. This crisis continues to the next phase, particularly given the economic hit in key states, although not all of the data is bad. This means that we need to be looking up to the next academic year while keeping this one on track. Many schools have boards that have been more engaged in day to day decisions and operations in light of the nature of the pandemic, but we now need to move back to best practices if we have lost track of the lines in the sand. As school leaders, this may mean taking on more or hiring a consultant if you need one, but please do make a course correct. You will need the strategic help and your school should be capturing the opportunities that are being presented both by key school learnings and this time of being “unfrozen.”

Third, do not forget the energy with which many of you engaged in your diversity, equity, and inclusion work this summer and into this school year. So many schools re-enunciated their commitment to this work within their communities, worked with alumni to understand their pasts, and launched committees and task forces committed to bringing greater awareness and a clearer equity lens to all of the work and opportunities available in our schools. That energy should not be misplaced now.

Finally, we have an election coming right around the corner, in case you missed that piece of news. Now is the time for your school to articulate its expectations around campus discourse for students, staff, and families. SAIS is working with NWAIS and ISAS to help school leaders get aligned and prepared for healthy discourse during this political season. This two-part series continues on September 22. We are also working with Leadership + Design to offer a one-day workshop for educators who want to have productive conversations in the classroom this election season. This four-hour workshop includes curriculum available to your entire school for educators looking to engage students in healthy discussions around the election. The workshop has a cap of 50 people and has breakouts, role plays, and a variety of activities to help educators get comfortable.

We at SAIS are looking forward to this academic year ahead with you, particularly at the Annual Conference in October. We are building out resources in these and other crucial areas to help support you as you continue to wrestle with the challenges ahead and embrace the opportunities that arise.

Please do not hesitate to let us know if there is any way we can help you!  


Calendar more
Annual Conference
October 21-23 | Virtual
Various dates & topics
Virtual Roundtables
Held monthly by role
More Events

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