Working Past Covid: Pasco Superintendent navigates through a year of change

Working Past Covid: Pasco Superintendent Navigates Through A Year Of Change

PASCO, Wash. — “It was like a light switch.”

That’s how Superintendent of Pasco Schools, Michelle Whitney describes the moment Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that in-person schooling was over for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

In essence, students would be away from their teachers and friends for an unknown amount of time.  It also means the 2020 Seniors would miss out on their rites of passage, especially graduating with their class. Whitney wanted to let those students know that many things had changed, that they weren’t forgotten in the video below. In that message, she told students “Many things have been canceled, changed or postponed, but what has not been cancelled, special.”

Change had come quickly, for the first order of business was making sure every student had access to a computer to be able to get their schooling in.  Superintendent Whitney’s staff actually went door to door, to make sure every student had a laptop.

“It wasn’t before long before our schools were reporting that 100% of kids had laptops,” Whitney said.

Eventually, with the end of the last school year, it became important to focus on the current school year. Input was given from teachers, parents and students on virtual town meetings with as many as 800 people participating.

“As I came in as Superintendent, listening to those I’m in service to is a core value I’ve held onto, being able to do outreach with that volume of people in this uncertainty was important,” Whitney said.

Next week, in-person learning as an option will return to schools throughout the state of Washington. Besides the temperature checks and face masks, Whitney says the schools won’t look much different from where they had before the pandemic, though some of the students will still be distance learning.

So after this year, I asked Superintendent Whitney how the education system changed as a whole.

“I think that education as a system is a slow-moving entity, and this environment has shown us we can be more agile and nimble,” Whitney said. “I would like to slow down the pace of change, but I also don’t want to lose that disposition that really, we can implement and pivot more quickly than we have in the past.”

She also added, that the one word she would use to describe the parents, students and her staff, is “Resiliency.”