This week marks the end of a trying year for all of us, but after all that we have gone through together as a school district and as a community, my message to you is simple – we made it!
I know it was a hard year. I know we missed out on a lot of things that we typically love about school. But, I think it’s important to remember that with those losses came tremendous gains. We learned lessons that only a shared crisis could teach us. We learned what’s truly essential in our lives and what matters the most in our community. We learned that educating children, providing them with a safe place to learn, nurturing both their physical and emotional needs is a passion we all share.
To our teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff, nurses, administrators, and every other employee with Chesapeake Public Schools, thank you for making that passion your priority. I want you to know that each and every one of you did an outstanding job. You were amazing, passionate problem-solvers. You never lost sight of what your students needed (whether you saw them in person every single day or whether you haven’t seen them in person since last March.) You’ve always done what’s best for them.
In doing what was right, you simultaneously adapted to all the things that felt wrong, or at least different. You turned mask-wearing into a game. You connected with students often when you couldn’t even see their faces. You made learning fun in a world that sometimes felt scary.
When you look back on this past year, it’s easy to remember the challenges you faced and the struggles you went through, but I hope that on this last week of the 2020-2021 school year, you also remember all the impressive things you achieved and all the successes you helped cultivate.
At Camelot Elementary School, teachers helped their students hone technology skills and even their youngest learners successfully navigated giving the first online presentations. Just like this young man who taught his classmates about Jackie Robinson – you hit it out of the park.
The Oscar Smith Middle School Tigers shared their success with the First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam. On her visit, it was clear that she recognized that our students and staff have dealt with the challenges of this year with more grace and determination than anyone could have ever imagined and that their teachers played an integral role in modeling those invaluable lessons.
At Great Bridge, Hickory, and Oscar Smith High Schools, our coaches helped their student-athletes overcome the heartbreak of delayed or canceled games, only to help some of those same athletes earn well-deserved state championship titles.
At Hickory Middle School, serving others remained a priority and the SCA there partnered with community members and friends at Walmart to fill boxes of school supplies for several of our elementary schools.
Our students across the city initiated a “Share the Love” campaign and encouraged a renewed focus on caring and kindness when it could have been easier for them to focus on their own loss or grief.
Crestwood Middle School joined our entire community to support our military families throughout the pandemic. We rallied around our military-connected students across the district and recognized that some of the restrictions and changes put in place this year were harder for them than most.
Our health services team succeeded in working alongside the Chesapeake Health Department to host school-based vaccination clinics for staff, students, and our community. It’s work I know they were proud to do and a service they are proud to continue to provide.
At Butts Road Intermediate, even when physical distancing made making connections a challenge, a simple hug could still make a child’s day.
This list could go on and on. You embodied the best of the human spirit. There’s really no better way to sum up how I feel about the work you’ve done this year other than to reiterate how very proud I am of you and your success.
I hope you take time this summer to rest, recharge, and reflect on all you have accomplished, and somewhere around the beginning of August or so, I hope you start looking forward to next year. Until then, know that you did exceptional work and you should be so proud of what we accomplished together.