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OP-ED: From WOCCISD Superintendent: We made it

Dr. Rickie R. Harris
West Orange – Cove CISD Superintendent

As we draw this academic school year to a close, it seems accurate to say that this has been a challenging year for all, rather than most. School in a worldwide pandemic is a challenge that none of us have ever faced. Yet, the team and students at WOCCISD approached the challenge head-on. When I look back at the 2020-2021 school year, I do not see a lost year. Instead, I see a District that should look back and be proud.

The WOCCISD Board of Trustees and administrators worked tirelessly throughout last summer to create a return to school plan. This plan introduced virtual platforms and in-person learning models that included COVID-safe campuses, transportation, and deep cleaning protocols in line with TEA and CDC guidelines. The primary focus was making sure students had the option of in-person instruction for the entire year. We believed that it was the best for the students. The plan was thoughtful, and we were prepared for the unexpected.

Virtual learning was a new frontier as with any new technological approach. The technology team at WOCCISD provided district-owned laptop computers with proper software and hot spot wifi devices for students without internet connectivity. As a result, students and teachers adapted to the virtual platforms. Teaching was already one of the most difficult and under-appreciated jobs before the pandemic. COVID-19 increased both exponentially. However, for the trained eye, the extenuating circumstances brought out the best in our educators. Recently, West Orange-Stark Elementary school was named a “Beacon School” by the learning platform, Imagine Learning for consistent program usage, and best practices in program implementation.

Parents faced a difficult choice to send children to campus or find suitable childcare for working parents while also helping to educate and feed students at home. WOCCISD Child Nutrition Services provided meals to all children 18 and under by curbside pickup and delivery along regular bus routes in the District. Thousands of meals were delivered curbside or by bus to children during the 2020-2021 school year.

Last night the WOS Senior Class of 2021 walked across the stage, and they now hold more than a diploma; they overcame the challenges of a pandemic with resilience in a year like no other. Several of our graduating students also have an associate’s degree from LSCO as the first cohort of our ECHS program. Congratulations to the WOS Class of 2021, administrators, teachers, parents, and staff, as I regularly repeat the words of John C. Maxwell, “One is too small a number to achieve greatness,” it was a community effort, and we made it!

 

Dr. Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD.