by Catherine Schumacher, President & CEO, Public Education Partners

I’m writing this blog post from my home office, where I am enjoying one of the two benefits of working from home (the other being the dress code): windows.

I never thought I would miss my windowless office at Public Education Partners so much. I took the quiet space, free of distractions, for granted. I took my brilliant and funny colleagues, the quick convenings in the hallway and the rather grim breakroom, for granted. Lots of things…taken for granted.

As our communities come together to respond to COVID-19 and its wide-ranging impact, all of us at Public Education Partners hope that there is one thing that no one will take for granted ever again: the essential role that public schools play in our society. Not just as places of learning, but as anchors of our communities.

Schools are, first and foremost, a safe space where our children learn to be educated, engaged, empathetic members of society. What we have seen in the last few weeks, however, is all of the OTHER things our schools do as well. Kids receive healthy meals that keep their bodies strong and minds sharp. They turn to school-based health centers to receive medical care and mental health supports. Families are connected to a broad network of social service providers that help with everything from homelessness to job training.

All from one, chronically underfunded system.

Our school districts–our teachers, counselors, principals, staff, administrators, and superintendents–are superheroes. As Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Burke Royster observed in this op-ed published last week in the Greenville News, the efforts to transform learning and other support for our students on a very short timeframe are nothing short of “heroic.”

In Greenville County alone, we have 81 different locations where the district is providing not only two meals per day for students, but also free wi-fi access so that kids who don’t have it at home can download new content to their school-issued Chromebooks, submit assignments to teachers, and continue learning. Special education teachers, counselors, and school social workers are all keeping a close eye on their students, checking in just as they would if schools were in session as usual. These efforts are being replicated at districts across the Upstate, and they powerfully demonstrate the ways in which public education is about so much more than academics.

Public Education Partners of Greenville County is proud to serve as co-facilitator with Ten at the Top of the Upstate Education Spectrum, which convenes key stakeholders to discuss critical needs in education that impact our Upstate Counties. Over the last year, we have been focusing on the teacher shortage, working together to develop strategies for recruiting and retaining the best teachers for our Upstate classrooms—inviting them to #TeachattheTop.

The Teach at the Top brand was developed in partnership with our friends at Duke Brands and will be the heart of collaborative messaging about the benefits of teaching in the Upstate. Like PEP’s #Teach864 campaign, Teach at the Top will celebrate the terrific work of teachers and schools in our communities. Keep an eye out for news from #TeachattheTop on social media platforms in the weeks to come—now is the perfect time to shine a bright spotlight on these superheroes among us.

I also want to ask our Upstate community to keep a close eye on how we can support our public schools, teachers and administrators, and the students and families that they serve over the next several weeks. In particular, our Upstate United Ways are helping to coordinate strategic supports for children and families during this time. Public Education Partners will be doing everything that we can to be a good partner to Greenville County Schools, our colleagues at Ten at the Top, and others as we navigate this crisis. I invite you to follow us on our social media platforms (@PEPGreenville) and website for critical information relating to COVID-19, along with updates about our own programming.

Be well. Stay safe. Thank a teacher.

 

 

Public Education Partners (PEP), founded in 1985, leads our community in acting collectively to support, strengthen, and advance public education and student achievement in Greenville County Schools. To that end, its work focuses on Elevating Teachers, Empowering Advocates, and Engaging Communities.