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Superintendent Update: April 22, 2020

DPS Coronavirus Update

Wednesday, April 22

11:30 PM


Hi Folks,


Over the past 24 hours, as the impact of Governor Baker’s announcement closing school buildings for the rest of the school year has begun to sink in, I have had the chance to reach out and connect with many of our directors, principals, and educators in all of our schools.  They are experiencing all of the emotions associated with loss - disappointment, sadness, dismay - and particularly profound sadness for all their students who they miss dearly.  Despite the advanced knowledge that this announcement would likely be coming, the finality of this decision was more stunning and impactful than many of us anticipated.  It was a real punch in the gut.  I am particularly sad for the kids who will miss out on all of the time-honored traditions and ceremonies they have long anticipated at each level of the district.


Last night I had the good fortune to host a video conference with over 20 Town Wide PTO Officers from all schools in Dedham.  I invited these parents to share with me their families’ experiences over the course of the past five weeks.  It was clear from their shared comments that this sequence has been difficult and draining on all families as everyone has struggled to maintain a sense of “normalcy”.  I heard about how every family has different advantages, needs, and constraints that require flexibility and understanding.  This is particularly apparent in families with younger children or high needs students who need direct parental support as they are not able to adequately complete lessons independently at home.  These conditions put added pressure on parents who are also trying to work from home, and in some instances are dealing with additional complications from a variety of sources.  More than anything, it was clear that their children missed the direct daily interactions and connections with their educators. They miss their teachers mannerisms, their facial expressions, their routines, and their trusted relationships.


I spent time today relaying what I learned in these conversations with our district leaders as we continue to do our best to meet the needs of all our students and families at all levels of the district.  I learned that many of our educators have completed trainings and have begun working together to use video conferences with groups of students as a tool to maintain their connections.  I also learned that our Phase 2 Remote Learning Plan has had a dramatic positive impact on the connections, motivation, and investment of our students in grades 6-12.  Educators and district leaders have all seen significant improvements in student engagement and have been thrilled with their students’ response.


But the real challenge continues to be meeting the diverse needs of all our students and families with grace, patience, compasion, and understanding all around.  We all recognize that none of us signed up for this, and the frustrations we are all experiencing (educators, parents, and students alike) are real and unwanted, particularly as the realization of the next 8+ weeks looms ahead of us.  I appreciate your feedback and your patience as we continue to do the best that we can.


Today a well-respected colleague of mine forwarded me an article from The Atlantic entitled “Distance Learning Isn’t Working”.  It was written by a veteran homeschooling parent, and I think it captures much of the sentiment we are all feeling related to this challenging hand we have been dealt.  I share this with you because it recognizes that parents know what their children need, and what their families need, to make the best of this remote learning situation.  It also acknowledges what we all know - there is simply no way to effectively recreate the schooling experience in students’ homes.  It is important to do our best to meet these needs, and sometimes that means seeking support and guidance when what is suggested is not working.


Thank you, parents, for reaching out to our teachers to relay your needs and seek support.  And thank you to our educators for your flexibility and understanding as we all do our best to meet everyone’s needs to support all our children. 


All my best,


Mike Welch