In my humble opinion & experience, this past school year was one of the most controversial & divisive times in the recent history of academia. One of my mentors has described this adverse season in education as the pandemic and politics crossing paths, & unfortunately, placing educators unwittingly & unfairly in the crosshairs of the debate.  

Regardless of this inauspicious period of time within scholastics, our credence remains the same: we believe our 3 stakeholder groups determine the overall success of our district’s educational experience; or perhaps, easier to visualize, we use the analogy that successful education is a strong, solid, weight bearing “3-legged stool,” with each leg representing each of the stakeholder groups - students, educators, & parents.  We have confidence in & rely upon each “leg of the stool” holding its own weight & doing its job so that the “stool” does not collapse nor fail.  Furthermore, we have a culture in our building that is built upon strong relationships, as we follow the research which dictates that communication & trust are the deciding factors in determining the overall success of any relationship. That being stated, we knew that during a season of life such as pandemic education, communication & trust would be even more paramount, as when there is a lack of communication, or lack of trust, negativity fills in the gap.  With our educators & support staff, our daily interactions, PD gatherings, S.I.T. think tanks, & weekly memos filled the communication/trust gap; whereas with our students, we were able to engage with them in our classrooms, in the hallways, via our Student Voice Forum, & during extracurricular events. However, with the “3rd leg of the stool,” our parents needed a consistent, convenient, & specialized engagement method to ensure their voices were heard.   

Therefore, starting in September of this past school year, we first announced our intent to host a weekly to bi-weekly virtual gathering for our parents & community.  We deemed the interactive Zoom meetings “Monday Musings from the MS/HS,” gathering every Monday night at 5:30pm in a virtual town hall context where we sought to provide a weekly platform for our parent stakeholders to share their questions, comments, and/or concerns, and thus, grow our cohesion, inclusion, & communication of said stakeholder group.  Furthermore, we invited special guests to join us on every Monday Musings - from School Improvement Team members to Student Voice Forum leaders, & from our Theater Director & Football Coach to our Special Ed. Director & Superintendent, we attempted to engage our community via varied interests & connections.  Our 30 minute  Zoom commenced each time with a review of our purpose or objectives for Monday Musings from the MS/HS (to grow communication, inclusion, & cohesion w/ our parents), & then a brief synopsis of all things academic/arts/extracurricular in our building.  Following the brief summary, we would ask our special guests a few prepared questions, & then leave the final 10 minutes of Monday Musings for our parents to ask questions and/or voice concerns.  All in all, Monday Musings from the MS/HS served as a consistent opportunity to connect & engage our parents in our educational process, while concurrently increasing communication & trust within the relationship.

Much like so many other lessons learned during pandemic learning, there are several tools, strategies, & processes we plan to continue using, even post-pandemic - we call these the “beautiful realities” of an adverse season.  One of the “beautiful” initiatives we intend to continue implementing is Monday Musings from the MS/HS via Zoom; we simply see too many benefits from its consistent, efficient, & effective format not to continue it.  Furthermore, we envision that Monday Musings has the potential to grow even greater communication, cohesion, & inclusion in our district community next year.  

If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I look forward to any questions and/or comments you may have.  Have a blessed day, stay up, & Onward Pirates!

Written by Todd Simmons, Principal at Pewamo-Westphalia Middle School/High School and MASSP Board of Directors Representative