President’s Message: Facing our greatest challenge together

By CSBA President Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez

I am writing this message in a time of great uncertainty, not just for public education, but for our everyday lives as we face the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I want to commend my fellow trustees — as well as administrators, teachers and classified staff — across California for working tirelessly as we strive to educate and serve the state’s 6.2 million students amid unprecedented school closures. The challenges of the moment and those that lie ahead are tremendous, but by working together, we can meet them head on.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state of California on March 19, urging residents to shelter in place, avoid nonessential errands and practice social distancing. However, we know that the critical functions of education must go on. Since the onset of coronavirus concerns and even before schools halted in-person instruction, CSBA has been working hard to keep you informed of the latest updates from both state and federal authorities. In addition, we have compiled a comprehensive set of resources (which are being updated as necessary) for California schools grappling with the impact of COVID-19. I hope school communities, students, families and staff find it useful and provide feedback to staff. These resources cover areas including remote and distance learning, student health and well-being, serving students with disabilities and special needs, multilingual education, support for parents and families, meals and nutrition services, and pressing legal issues.

In addition, CSBA wants to hear from you about your areas of greatest challenge and suggestions you have for what would best support your districts and counties during this time. If you have not yet completed the survey, it is just two short questions and will inform CSBA’s advocacy and communications on issues related to COVID-19. CSBA is already sharing your feedback with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education. Our association is also collecting pressing questions with a submission tool on the CSBA website. These questions will be compiled into an FAQ section and supplement the information collected from the survey. All of this information can be found on CSBA’s dedicated webpage:

There are a number of common threads that have distinguished themselves in the first batch of survey results:

  • Student achievement, equity, and access: Distance learning, assessment, school calendar, technology infrastructure and access, special education and services for low-income and rural students
  • Student well-being: School meals, childcare, mental health, and home environment and support
  • Workforce and labor-management relations: Health and safety, compensation, training and professional development, and disaster response
  • Guidance and communication: Conflicts between guidance for schools and public health directives, uncertainty about school closures/re-openings, and the need for clear expectations for academic program and operations
  • Funding and finance: Additional costs in time of financial stress for LEAs and fear of increased exposure to litigation

CSBA will work with the CDE and other state agencies to advocate for the resources our schools need and to answer your questions. Please check your inbox and the CSBA website regularly for the most up-to-date information.

The closure of the vast majority of schools in California and throughout the country has cast a spotlight on just how important schools are in our society. Often taken for granted, public schools play an essential role, not only in developing the minds of our children but also providing them with a safe environment, healthy food and a sense of belonging within school and the community.

Many challenges lay ahead, and we must prepare to be flexible and innovative as we help implement learning solutions that do not involve gathering together in a classroom. Stay strong and be well.