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Dr. Deighan's Weekly Article - May 22, 2020

Dreams of our Children

Tornadoes, Rattlesnakes, and 2020

May 22, 2020 by Tom Deighan

I reckon that Oklahomans think differently (or different, if you are a true Okie) because of tornadoes and rattlesnakes. I once had a prominent official suggest that we close school for every tornado watch. And another demanded we cancel recess because someone found a rattlesnake on the playground. They were obviously not Okies, because we don’t live in storm shelters all spring, and we have learned to watch where we step. We cannot avoid every possible risk. We simply rely on individuals to protect themselves and others. Hypervigilance for tornadoes or rattlesnakes would not be practical or even helpful. In fact, it might be downright counterproductive because storm shelters are prime snake hideaways, and who knows what we would step on if we stared fearfully at clouds all day. We just need to remember that what’s normal thinking for Oklahomans may not be so normal elsewhere.  

Obviously, our definition of normal may have just changed forever. In a normal year, this week marks the official end of school, but not even superintendents are sure how to call this one. We sort of ended in March, and sort of ended again on May 8th. And despite having several drive-thru celebrations and a virtual graduation, we are having another graduation on the fourth of June, God and Governor Stitt willing. Lamb Chop used to sing about this, and Bill Murray made a similar movie, but I would rather get bit by a rattlesnake than to watch Groundhog Day or listen to “The Song That Never Ends.”  Likewise, this spring had its highlights, but I prefer the good-old-fashioned terror of tornado season. I pray we can return to normal the upcoming school year.

At this point . . . so far . . . unless something changes . . . Duncan Public Schools is planning on a regular school year in August. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has suggested that schools be ready for anything, but I am not quite ready to climb into the storm shelter just yet. As we have learned, a lot can change in three months. Besides, by August, we will have more actionable data. Hopefully, the sun will have driven both rattlesnakes and tornadoes into hiding, but if not, Duncan Public Schools will be ready. At this point . . . so far . . . unless something changes . . . let’s plan for a normal school year. We all need one.

We do hope, however, to have some answers soon about summer activities as the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association finalizes its guidelines. As soon as that is official, we will send information out. It appears that everything will open June 1, so I am hopeful about getting kids and coaches safely back together.

As unsettling as the last few weeks have been, we have identified several key issues to focus on over the summer. We will be considering how to maximize technology and to increase virtual school offerings. We will also be updating our elementary school progress reports based on feedback from parents and staff. Schools may have been “closed” for a bit, but staff have been working, albeit differently. Many good things can come from this closure, kind of like snakeskin boots, and we can improve many areas moving forward. Unfortunately, the negative impact of all this is impossible to ignore. And because so many people and businesses are hurting, Duncan Public Schools is also looking at how to minimize fund-raising in the 2020-21 school year. The generosity of the Duncan community is unparalleled, but we need to be mindful of the tornado that has swept through our lives. Our programs have needs, but so do many of you.

We will find the right balance, just as Okies always do. Other than June graduation ceremonies, school is officially over, and summer can begin. Have fun. Be safe. And keep a watch for tornadoes and rattlesnakes. You don’t need any government guidelines to do that.  

By grace, 

Tom Deighan

Public educators welcome all . . . serve all . . . love all.