Equity and Compassion in a Time of Corona Virus

Ukiah High School Principal, Gordon Oslund, shared the following thoughts in his daily Briefing for faculty today.  As those of us in education work together to provide for the instructional needs of students, I believe Gordon’s words  are a powerful and important reminder that people are more important than programs, and we all need to stay laser-focused on compassionate care for our students as priority number one.

From The Daily Briefing, Ukiah High School – Gordon Oslund, Principal

Equity.  At Ukiah High School we are familiar with the word equity.  It is a core value. In the best of times this value guides our actions to ensure that regardless of where our students come from their work will result in equitable achievement.  In the most challenging of times, such as the present, our commitment to equity is even more critical. As public employees serving students, we are fortunate to have jobs that continue to provide a paycheck and relative security.  Our ability to provide shelter, food, and care for those we love is not immediately threatened. This is by design. In a crisis, this personal security allows us to continue to focus on caring for the children in our community. That focus needs to begin with understanding the reality most families in our community and nation are confronting.  Prior to this crisis 75% of our students were identified as socio-economically disadvantaged. In those homes this crisis will be increasingly devastating. Jobs have been and will be lost. Whatever savings people have will disappear. We know from training and experience that fulfilling basic hierarchical needs – food and shelter – takes precedence over all other priorities.  Many of the families we serve do not have money to pay rent, buy food, keep the lights on, or buy gas. The density of people living sequestered in small spaces will only increase. Without access to adequate health care this crisis will be particularly unkind. Distraction and distancing will be driven by anxiety. This is a bleak picture. Compassion is another of our core values.  As we work to sustain the education of children and thus provide stability, hope, and the foundation for a much better world in the future we must account for the challenges families face in meeting basic needs. In the most difficult times, the integrity of an institution will be judged by the compassion expressed in its actions. All institutions in our society are changing in response to this crisis.  As educators every single decision, action, and interaction we have with students must be prefaced with the reality they are facing. This is true from assignments, to communication, to feedback, to grading policies. Again, three quarters of those we serve are at risk of not meeting basic hierarchical needs in the immediate future. Adjust accordingly. We are more needed and more relevant now than at any time in our collective memory.  Let us continue to serve and support with love and compassion.  Gordon Oslund

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