What most worries 2022 Superintendent of the Year

Cortez Deacetis

Curtis Cain, 48, who has given that 2013 been in cost of the 17,300-student university district in Wentzville, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, was supplied the countrywide honor past thirty day period in Nashville at the annual education conference of AASA, Faculty Superintendents Affiliation.

Cain, who is taking on a new obstacle this summertime as superintendent of the Rockwood Faculty District in the St. Louis suburbs, which has extra than 20,000 students, was credited with capably guiding Wentzville as it grew to become the swiftest developing district in the point out. Just one vital initiative through the pandemic was the creation of an on the net mental wellness hub for pupils.

Although accepting his award, Cain claimed that 2022 has been harder than the uncertain times when the pandemic first took maintain in 2020 and offer strains designed it difficult to come across important staples. “It’s been like soccer with no shin guards,” he explained. ” … I’m not positive how 2022 is worse than March of 2020, when we did not know wherever we’re going to obtain bathroom paper, but someway it is even worse. But in some way the get the job done is even more vital.”

I questioned him what he meant by that statement, and Cain claimed that at the get started of the pandemic, the most important challenge in assembly the demands of learners was not realizing what was likely to come about and acquiring to adjust tactics repeatedly as the pandemic advanced.

Currently, he said, there are “many other things layered on prime of those people before worries.” Those incorporate new limits in Republican-led states on how history, race and gender are mentioned in classrooms, and, he stated, massive philosophical issues about the price of community education and learning.

“I have all the self-confidence in the world that we will get even though this,” Cain stated, but he conceded it will everything but straightforward. “We’ve observed problem in advance of,” he reported, “but I do not know if we have viewed all of this just before.”

Through the pandemic, Cain uncovered himself navigating in a largely conservative group. In January, for case in point, the Wentzville faculty board refused to undertake his advice that masks be demanded in faculties that had a 3 percent coronavirus positivity fee.

Later on in January, the very same panel voted to take away “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison from superior school libraries simply because of its graphic descriptions of sexual intercourse, rape, incest and violence — but the university board reversed that final decision in February just after a lawsuit was submitted by learners.

Edgar Nelson, principal of Liberty Higher University in the district, described Cain’s navigation of these challenges to AASA this way: “We are a extremely conservative neighborhood. Ideal on the heels of covid, we’ve been working with [critical race theory]. Dr. Cain is seriously so unflappable even when folks are screaming and yelling.”

Questioned what he sees as the most important problem dealing with general public instruction, Cain explained it is the pipeline of talent to staff public educational facilities. Lecturers. Principals. Superintendents. Aides. Bus drivers. And many others.

“Funding will generally be a obstacle we have to function our way by means of,” he mentioned. “It’s an at any time-existing problem that management needs to be regarded. But the major issue that is growing is the pipeline — and I never just imply this about the superintendency.”

Workers shortages have hobbled the functions of numerous universities this faculty 12 months. In some spots academics are so scarce that parents and other non-educators have been questioned to fill in. Principals are undertaking custodial chores, and bus company has been severely cut simply because of a absence of drivers. In one Connecticut university district, disrupted bus company forced colleges to near for two times.

A lot of faculty districts have been striving to uncover novel strategies to employees vacant positions. Techniques have involved bringing again retired educators and paying out out hundreds of dollars in bonuses or significant pay hikes as incentives for recruitment and retention. Some are employing students in trainer-preparation programs just before they graduate — and even students have been asked to help tutor their peers.

“You title the posture in the university district, and individuals are gravely concerned about the upcoming of the pipeline,” Cain said. “Some of the response that educator
s have viewed does not assistance the problem we are dealing with. It is staring us in the confront, and I can see it gaining momentum. I do not see a clear and clear path of how to address and abate the pipeline difficulty in front of us in the following five or 10 many years. I don’t see it from the chair appropriate now.”

The results in of the shortages are a number of. Thousands and thousands of persons stop their positions throughout the pandemic, but superintendents say their difficulties are based mostly in a lot more than that. Personal businesses can pay back a lot more than they do — even with the federal pandemic relief funding that Congress handed in excess of the previous handful of decades — and troubles to the way lecturers do their careers are making that placement considerably less interesting than at any time.

“I know we’re drained,” he advised other point out superintendents all through his conference speech. “I know there are problems that are in entrance of us … But public education is worth the combat.”

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