Growing up on the southside of Chicago, it was the public education system, and my dedicated teachers, that provided me with hope and put me on a career trajectory that would ultimately change my life. They invested in me. They demanded excellence. They approached all aspects of teaching and learning with integrity. I believe that education is the great equalizer, and now more than ever, we must commit to academic excellence for every student.
As we launch a new school year and welcome children back to classrooms, the excitement of our students, families and staff is palpable. We also know we’re in a time of unique challenges nationwide. The past 18 months have been incredibly trying for all of us, and we know that the pandemic continues. Families are understandably concerned about student health and safety, and this continues to be my top priority as we return 97% of our more than 90,000 students in-person, which is the best place for our children to learn.
While safety is top of mind, we must also reinvigorate our focus on serving students and delivering on their academic and social well-being needs. I will lead this effort grounded in three core beliefs.
First, an excellent school is every child’s fundamental right. Our classrooms must be rooted in rigorous learning aimed at excellent outcomes. We must strive to be the best version of ourselves every day and work together collaboratively to benefit every student.
Second, I believe that equity is our moral imperative. Every child deserves a fair shot to succeed. As a school system, we must use our talents and focus our resources to achieve just that for every student. Where there is a lack of access or opportunity, we must deliver it. Where there are learning gaps, we must close them.
Third, I believe in integrity. This means being open and honest. It means building trust among all of us -- teachers, school leaders, support staff, families and community. I believe in real engagement and genuine partnership. No matter who we are, where we live, or what language we speak, we all have the same goal: great schools and great outcomes for our children.
While this ongoing pandemic has created obstacles for teaching and learning, we are committed to moving forward. Our plan for recovery, acceleration, and re-engagement provides comprehensive academic, social-emotional and mental health support for our students. This approximately $72 million plan is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that has provided funding to PWCS to address learning loss/unfinished learning.
As I continue to visit schools over the coming weeks, with a goal to visit every school in my first 100 days, I will listen to and work with the entire PWCS community. I want to learn about past successes -- and replicate them. I want to identify growth areas -- and innovate. I want to build a long-term culture of collaboration and partnership.
Together, we will ensure academic progress, and launch thriving futures, for every student.
LaTanya McDade, Ed.D, is the superintendent of Prince William County Schools.