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Letter to the Editor - Positive thoughts and blue jeans don’t help our educators
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Recently, school personnel in Bulloch County received a communication from Superintendent Charles Wilson to provide “encouragement” in this difficult time with critically high levels of COVID 19 in our schools and communities. After noting that other districts in the area were addressing this in different ways, he shared the following words:

“In Bulloch County, we are committed to keeping our schools open to provide our students with safe nurturing learning environments.  

“To do that, we are all having to dig deep and work together. In that, we will find the rewards of our purpose for what we do and the resilience we model for our students. This is what makes a community and makes it strong. Our positive attitude, our faith, and our commitment to our students is what will take us through this.  

“Please tend to your own wellbeing, particularly during these challenging times, by engaging in positive thought and activities and resting when you can. You matter more now than ever to our students and they are depending on us to show them the way.”

He may be surprised that many of the recipients of this message did not find these words to be encouraging. In fact, some felt that this was an obvious attempt at gaslighting.

These educators need real help with this dangerous situation, not a lecture on how they should dig deeper, have a more positive attitude or stronger faith. And to encourage them to “get some rest” when their anxiety for themselves and their students is so high is not a helpful prescription. Many parents and educators have pleaded for scientifically based procedures to be mandated that will truly help them to all be safer.

Yet, our system’s primary response to the critical increase in COVID was to add the word “strongly” in front of the encouragement to mask. The parents that I’ve heard from are dismayed with the system's lack of appropriate response to this crisis, and teachers I’ve heard from are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. 

Seven clergy members met recently with the superintendent to plead with him to at least require masks to protect students and school personnel. He did indicate he would process our recommendations and I was hopeful that there would be a change. And yes, there was.  

To help the teachers and staff feel better about this dangerous work environment, he’s decided to let them wear jeans for a month.

“Enjoy your jeans.”  

As a former teacher in this system, a former teacher educator who taught many of these fine educators, and a minister who understands that faith must always be accompanied by meaningful action, I call upon the superintendent and Board of Education members to rethink their decision regarding their response (or lack of response) to this critical situation.

Our Bulloch County faculty, staff and students deserve more. Caring means more than having positive thoughts and being permitted to wear jeans.

We must do everything we can to protect those who work and learn in our system and to support our health care workers who are pleading with all of us to take the necessary steps to diminish this overwhelming crisis.  

Rev. Jane Page

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