Dreams of Our ChildrenPosted by Dr. Tom Deighan on 11/13/2020
In recent weeks, some districts in our state have returned to in-person learning for the first time this school year, and it piqued my curiosity. I spent over an hour on the interweb researching how many schools have been 100% virtual most of this year, but darned if I didn’t come up empty-handed. I visited websites of statewide educational organizations and agencies, and I even requested lists, but no luck. From my research alone, however, I could easily assume that most Oklahoma schools have been virtual most of the year.
Nevertheless, in numerous statewide meetings, I hear most superintendents strategizing how to keep their schools open as they chase after our state’s mercurial quarantining rules. From these meetings, it appears that most school districts have been open all year, even if some have had to close temporarily in some measure. Many offer a virtual option, as does Duncan Public Schools, and we have all dealt with quarantines, but most of them sound like they have been open all along. Funny how open schools are virtually invisible in the news during all this.
All of this is anecdotal, and I could be very wrong, so take it with several grains of salt, because in the age of COVID, I have become open to the possibility that 2+2 indeed equals 5. (If I could only get my banker to agree. He is so intolerant.) Out of an abundance of caution, therefore, I must at least consider the possibility that most Oklahoma school districts have been virtual this year. This would make Duncan and other districts outliers in a world of COVID computer education. I would not be surprised if many of our parents, educators, and community members share the same impressions due to the statewide narrative.
Folks, I cannot sugar-coat this. Whenever the health department calls, school is disrupted for two full days, creating unprecedented stress for staff. Many fear COVID, but many dread the disruption of quarantine worse, and no one wants to be responsible for overturning someone else’s life. Nevertheless, health department officials are shorthanded, so DPS staff must make those phone calls for the State Health Department. Just imagine the third or fourth time you get the phone call that your child is being quarantined . . . and just imagine being the staff member who must make that phone call, despite not being a healthcare professional. Now add the impression that most schools are closed, and this can become unbearable.
Frankly, there are days when I envy districts who have kept schools closed, but they have been through a virtual woodchipper. This is 2020, and whatever you do is wrong, so what’s the answer? Well, as a former English teacher, I have done the math, and the only way 2+2 consistently equals 4 is to shut out all the noise and consider the needs of our local children and families. If in-person school is best, then I believe that is what we should do as long as we can manage it safely for our staff. I also believe that most Oklahoma school districts have shared this fight from day one, despite what I see on social media.
We are at a critical time, however, when your beloved DPS educators could use a “thank you” for keeping your school open. Because of them, children have a safe place and the parents and businesses of Duncan can experience some sort of normalcy. Please let them know they are seen. I bet educators in other invisible school districts could also use encouragement. You cannot imagine what a simple expression of gratitude would do for them during this Thanksgiving season. We are all tired and a little frazzled, but schools full of kids will always be better than screens full of kids. You are an exceptional community, Duncan, but in this case, you are not the exception. I believe that more districts have been open than closed, and I also firmly believe that communities not only see their local educators’ sacrifice, but they also thank God for them every day. We may eventually lose this battle, but thank you DPS staff for every day we can keep our doors open.
Tom Deighan is the Superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Public Schools
A School Night Scarier than HalloweenPosted by Dr. Tom Deighan on 10/18/2020
Certain mysteries persist, even in the modern world, and when answers cannot be found, human nature spins its own yarn that twists and folds upon itself in fantastic convolutions until rumors, urban legends, and even myths emerge. Such tales captivate the young, bemuse the old, and roll the eyes of skeptics, and no month sparks such fancy more than October. We blame this on the looming specter of All Hallows Eve, but children know better, for in October the novelty of a new school year eerily erodes into something more macabre and terrifying than any childish ghost story.
Few questions nag a child’s mind more than the nighttime activities of teachers. Each afternoon, they send them off with Stepford waves, and each morning, they return to Stepford smiles, forcing children to wonder which cabinet in the classroom their teacher sleeps. Around the time of the first cold snap,
however, when hallways fill with the smells of heaters burning off summer cobwebs, fear replaces such childish notions as news spreads of a sinister night when the teachers mingle openly with parents. An unholy night when secrets pass between worlds: parent-teacher conferences.
Do we assume that parent-teacher conferences coincide with full moons by chance? Natural law prohibits teachers and parents from congregating except during the precious days preceding the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, and such an alignment of the heavens occurred last week. Familiar scenes of Dads crouching in tiny chairs, Moms rifling through artwork, and teachers heaping praises. These trappings all belie a darker purpose as principals roam . . . always roaming . . . watching for a phantasm lurking on the periphery, always beyond focus. Children fear the conferences, but the conferences have a greater purpose as parents and teachers unite against a more sinister foe, when no teachers’ lounge is safe.
No one really knows what the superintendent does or from whence he comes, but during parent teacher conferences, he silently hunts the halls, mysteriously apparating from school to school. When staff are forced to stay into the night, they cannot stave off hunger, so the sly superintendent seizes the opportunity to pounce on little smokies, brownies and treats. This year, the smell of baked potatoes first lured him into the open at DHS, but alas, the lounge was full, so he quickly slithered away. Emerson teachers caught him feasting on the roasted pig, only to hurry off to Woodrow to ravage sub sandwiches. Plato cleverly hid their smorgasbord, but to no avail, for he eventually ferreted out the line of crock pots futilely hidden from his appetites. Horace Mann openly courted the beast with a taco buffet, but he sensed a trap and scurried off to Mark Twain for Italian night. Villagers repelled him from Will Rogers, but not before absconding with a tasty strawberry cookie (that tasted like Frankenberry). Last sighting placed the gluttonous fiend at Duncan Middle School, his face buried in ice cream and Reese’s Pieces.
Teachers and parents must meet, twice each year during a full moon to repel the voracious scavenger. If not met with torches and pitchforks, the wily superintendent would soon stalk lunch lines, picking apples from students’ plates and cookies from classroom parties. Thankfully, parents and teachers can once again claim victory . . . for now. Having eaten his full, the beast again sleeps until the first full moon in March, when the vernal equinox will once again beckon him past playgrounds to prey again on unguarded buffets across the district. Meanwhile, the lowly superintendent recedes back into the shadows, surviving on a subsistence of donuts, soft-serve, and the occasional stray chocolate. Dismiss
this as a myth or urban legend at your own peril, for March lumbers nearer, and he will once again emerge, ready to feed.