|A look back to look forward
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;……Charles Dickens
As your superintendent of schools I recently passed what I think to be an unbelievable personal milestone. Having now entered my fifth decade as a public school educator I have been thinking a great deal about my life work. There is a sense of joy and personal responsibility I feel as I continue to have this unique opportunity to serve your children.
With the start of another school year I have given much thought about my past as an educator. I have also thought a great deal about our future. Here, we hasten to point out that children are our future, but the reality is, we are our children’s future. The decisions adults make can create bright futures for every child or dim the bright candle that children present to us as they enter their schooling years.
My past is instructive here. When I started in public education, family lives and the lives of children seemed less hectic and complicated. Clearly, the pace of family life is much quicker today and kids seem busy all the time. Across our country, we know life for many families has also become more stressful due to the insidious issues like poverty. For instance, today in Michigan, 43 percent of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch at their public schools.
My past was also replete with examples of public schools and public school educators being viewed in respectful ways. For some reason, beyond my understanding, the times have changed here.
A data point we should all be concerned about is the decrease in enrollment in education schools at the collegiate level, meaning fewer young adults are pursuing the noble profession of teaching. With this concern, I am biased by the view that we are not making the right kind of investments in service of our children. While I understand the need for belt tightening, what has happened with school funding is beyond the pale and this cannot continue. From my perspective, it is shortsighted to not invest in support of the outcomes that are needed for our children.
Having shared these views with you, I will also be quick to point out that our focus must remain in the present and the future, and for good reason. Today, we know significantly more about the art and science of teaching and we know what makes for quality schools and a quality school district. Our practice can now, more than ever, be guided by quality research about teaching and learning.
We also know what makes for a good community that supports its children. Here, positive symbols abound. Our community is one that cares deeply for its children and while state government is providing declining support, that is not the case within this great community. And for this, I cannot thank you enough.
Allow me to close with the following:
Yes, my past has informed my present work. I can assure you, though, we will do all we can to ensure the brightest future for each of your children. Thank you for all your support and for taking the time to read about what is on my mind.
Daniel A. Nerad, Ed.D.