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Let’s face it, the past two-plus years have been a challenge, though the word “challenge” may be the understatement of the century. We can wallow in that if we want (I certainly have done it more than my fair share) or we can celebrate that, in spite of the challenges, our public schools have much to celebrate.

1 – Our schools rose to the COVID challenge. While many in the private sector shut down, schools kept going. Whether it was pivoting to remote learning, navigating myriad COVID-related issues, ensuring children were fed, reaching out to students through home visits, offering tutoring, summer school, and social-emotional support, the list goes on and on. Public school employees were and are nothing less than heroic. Don’t forget that.

2 – National divisions have not divided us. Public schools have become ground zero for the divisions that plague our nation. Yet, public school leaders have done a remarkable job of steering clear of many of the distractions and keeping the focus on serving children. We don’t choose the kids we serve. We serve them all, and we give them our best. Don’t ever let someone diminish the value of serving the children of your community.

3 – Parent approval has risen 12%. In spite of the challenges, and during the most difficult time in our lives, the percentage of parents who say they give their local schools a grade of A or B has increased by 12%, according to a statewide poll by the Charles Butt Foundation. That is remarkable, and it certainly stands in contrast to some of the negative rhetoric we hear about public schools. Parents see the incredible work you are doing, and the majority of them appreciate it … a lot.

4 – Americans gave their local public schools their highest rating in 48 years, according to the recently published PDK poll. That’s right, the best ratings in nearly half a century. Overall trust and confidence in a community’s public school teachers is 63%, much higher than most every other profession out there. So, to all you educators out there, let me say that in spite of all the rhetoric and all the skeptics and haters out there, most people think you are doing a great job. They are right!

5 – Students are showing us their resiliency. Although public schools do far more than what can be measured on STAAR or EOC exams, it is worth noting that students demonstrated significant growth this past year, which I think was the toughest year we have ever faced. Our students, teachers and administrators deserve the largest portion of credit for those gains.

While that’s it for my list (for now), based on what I’ve seen happening in districts across the state, I bet yours is much longer. I want to remind you, though, that no one is going to know about all those reasons we have for celebration unless we shout them from the mountaintops (or hilltops, since this is Texas).

Our public school educators deserve that recognition. They should be celebrated, supported in every way possible, and honored for their hard work and dedication. The innovation and ingenuity they have shown over the past couple of years should be rewarded. (Here’s an idea: What if our state Legislature built a monument to educators on the Capitol grounds as a symbol of the importance of public education in our democracy and the valiant efforts of our educators during the pandemic?)

I don’t know if this will be a “normal” year, but I hope it is a year of stability and growth for the students in your community. If the work you have done in the worst of times is any sign of what’s to come, we can tackle 2022-23 with confidence. We got this, folks.

-TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, Ed.D.